The Postcard

Europa. May 2023. 464p. tr. from French by Tina Kover. ISBN 9781609458386. $28. F
In this Prix Goncourt finalist, Lélia, a Frenchwoman living in Paris, receives a postcard with nothing on it but four names, which happen to be those of her grandparents and an aunt and uncle who perished during the Holocaust. She shows the postcard to her daughter, and neither of them has a clue as to who might have sent it or why. Lélia has kept a voluminous file over the years on her lost family, and she and her daughter set out to unravel the mystery behind the postcard. Through flashbacks, award-winning French author Berest (Sagan, Paris 1954) reimagines her own family history (that postcard really existed), while relating events surrounding the perished family, the grandparents originating in Moscow, then traveling with their children to Latvia and Palestine and finally settling in France some time before the German occupation. She also fills her daughter in on the life of Myriam, grandmother to Lélia and the sole survivor of her family. Effectively translated by Kover, the narrative has a somewhat complex structure, but despite all the flashbacks, the story is not hard to follow, and the well-drawn characters readily gain readers’ sympathy.
VERDICT Not only a significant contribution to our understanding of the Holocaust but a moving reflection on loss, memory, and the past, in equal measures heartwarming and heartrending. Highly recommended.
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