February 21, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Heir to the Glimmering World

By |2018-03-21T18:27:33+01:00January 1st, 2006|Recent Reviews|

By Cynthia Ozick

Mariner Books, 2005. 320 pages.


he UK title is “The Bear Boy,” the French one Un monde vacillant (“A Shifting World”), variety that helps suggest just how many takes this novel offers, and that multi-layered theming is central to its complex, highly cerebral author.

Heir focuses 1935, when, along with our passive narrator, eighteen-year-old Rose Meadows, we enter the desolate Bronx household of the large Witmesser family, Nazi-persecuted Jews who fled their shattered past to an America in the Great Depression. With rapid prose weave Ozick assembles a wild cast of characters-eccentric scholars, French governess, a fabled fictional Bear Boy come to adulthood, destructive fathers, even an exotic and improbable suitor for Rose- and through them completes the portrait of massive failure in both American and European society.

Perhaps Ozick believed the passive-narrator device useful to her wide-angle lens here. Unfortunately self-effacing Rose never convinces. A small minus to an otherwise ironic panorama of the collapse of systems and values.

About the Author:

Former Rabelais scholar Patricia Fogarty honed her skills in the New York City publishing world. She lives in Rome and has been the magazine's book columnist for a decade.