Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War

Penguin. Jan. 2016. 320p. photos. index. ISBN 9781594204388. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698410183. BIOG
OrangeReviewStarWhile novelist and scholar Buruma (human rights, Bard Coll.; Year Zero) is no stranger to studies of early and mid-20th-century history, this work hits a bit closer to home for him. In it, he details the relationship of his grandparents—both English Jews with German heritage—through letters and photographs, from the time they met just before World War I until the end of World War II. Buruma gives the missives depth and context by conveying events of the time, as well as sociocultural concerns of those of Jewish faith who longed to be accepted in English society and had to decide how to assimilate. The correspondence reveals a beautiful and complex love story that lasted through triumphs and disasters, years of separation, anti-Semitic microaggressions, and social and family pressures.
VERDICT Buruma's work is well-paced, absorbing, and gives a human face to some of the darkest eras of contemporary European history. Readers interested in biography, Judaism, social history, European history, the history of both World Wars, and/or a good old-fashioned love story will find much here to appreciate. [See Prepub Alert, 7/13/15.]

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