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.

T

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.