A Mind of Winter

Shi­ra Nayman
  • Review
By – May 8, 2012

Secre­cy, inse­cu­ri­ty, and dis­tort­ed mem­o­ries cast a pall over much of this nov­el, as if the opi­um which fig­ures sig­nif­i­cant­ly in a por­tion of the book infused the entire narrative.

The lives of the three major char­ac­ters are com­plex. All are World War Il sur­vivors: Mar­i­lyn from the Lon­don blitz, Oscar and Chris­tine from the Nazi deprav­i­ty in war-torn Europe. The impor­tant sup­port­ing char­ac­ters, Barn­a­by, Simon, and Wal­ter, are well devel­oped and inter­est­ing in their own right. The author suc­ceeds in expos­ing the char­ac­ters’ inner beliefs and emo­tion­al trau­mas; we dis­cov­er how their per­cep­tions of events and mem­o­ries direct the course of their lives.

The author’s skill with lan­guage height­ens the read­er’s curios­i­ty to know the truth: who real­ly is Oscar? Is it pos­si­ble to know, with­out a doubt, when an act is one of self-preser­va­tion or of delib­er­ate col­lab­o­ra­tion? What was real and what imagined?

The func­tion­al selec­tiv­i­ty of mem­o­ry is endur­ing and sub­tly pow­er­ful, but not nec­es­sar­i­ly accu­rate or obvi­ous. Yet this selec­tiv­i­ty deter­mines and defines the lives of the peo­ple at the core of this com­plex nov­el. What we bring to the text deter­mines what we take from it, as the read­er’s own per­spec­tives and pre­con­cep­tions become an unwrit­ten part of the narrative.
Nao­mi Kramer is a retired read­ing con­sul­tant teacher who devel­oped cur­ricu­lum for using lit­er­a­ture to edu­cate chil­dren and adults in the his­to­ry of the Holo­caust. She is a docent and edu­ca­tor at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter of Nas­sau County.

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