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Memory: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Feb 12 2008

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (Feb. 12 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 141655999X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416559993
  • Product Dimensions: 18 x 14.3 x 1.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #598,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In this slim, bleak second novel, French psychoanalyst Grimbert fictionalizes his wrenching family history, hidden for much of his youth. Born a sickly child in post-WWII Paris, Grimbert's narrator, Philippe Grimbert, develops an obsessive fascination with the lithe, muscular bodies and athletic prowess of his beautiful parents. His fantasy life extends to an imaginary brother who at first offers comfort and protection, but soon becomes a way for the young narrator to vent his frustration with his own weakness and pallor. At 15, a violent altercation with a schoolroom bully over a lesson on Holocaust victims results in the revelation of his origins: Grimbert, the narrator's family's name, was once Grinberg, and the story of his parents' romantic retreat to the country during the war is shattered by a heartbreaking story of betrayal and sacrifice in occupied France. For Grimbert, the aftermath of WWII forced survivors into prisons of their own memories and denial, bound together by an impossible grief. The story is powerful and gripping, but the juxtaposition between young Philippe's fantasy life and adult wartime realities is underdeveloped. Readers will share in the catharsis of Grimbert's revelations, but may feel a lingering emptiness once his family's secrets have been fully purged. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"The comfort we get from the cold raw truths -- death and loss and longing -- is that life itself is capable of small beauties. Grimbert captures this with style, depth and grace. Memory is a stunning book which simultaneously manages to widen our sense of history and story-telling." -- Colum McCann, author of Zoli and Dancer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Fiction? I think not...what a beautifully haunting story. From his earliest memory, the author is haunted by a feeling that he is not an only child...this book is so beautiful, mixing what we know to be history with the author's own life. A very memorable book, which I read in 2008, this story has stayed with me and I find myself thinking on it from time to time. A rare thing for a book to stay in my mind so long....winner of many awards in France and translated in English in 2008, sad yet beautiful...
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars 16 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous book July 16 2009
By Z. Lambacher - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is beautifully written, haunting, and a must-read for anyone interested in the Holocaust.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars chilling, poignant and shocking April 20 2008
By Laura Peterson - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautifully written, heartwrenching yet hopeful. These true stories are what children need to read to remind all of us about the horrors of the Holocaust.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Holocaust Story as Reflected in the Next Generation's Identity March 27 2008
By Steve Koss - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Philippe Grimbert's novella, MEMORY, might more aptly be titled, SELF-DISCOVERY. A best seller and multiple prize winner in France, this short and eminently readable tale recounts in fictional form the author's discovery of his Jewish identity (the family name had been carefully modified from Grinbert to Grimbert by his father) and that of his parents and the rest of his family. Heavily intertwined and propelling the family history of his parents' and grandparents was, of course, the story of Nazi Germany and Vichy France.

At the outset, Philippe is the 98-pound weakling son of parents Maxime and Tania, who are both paragons of physical beauty and athletic skill. Young Philippe sees ever-present disappointment in his father's eyes, so much so that he invents an imaginary and physically robust older brother as his protector. An incident in school during a classroom discussion of the Holocaust leads fifteen year old Philippe into a fight where he is beaten by a much larger classmate. As a result, the family's long-time friend, a woman named Louise, decides to reveal to Philippe the long and complex story of his unknown past.

Needless to say, that past is full of surpises and horrors, at least one of which is reminiscent of Styron's SOPHIE'S CHOICE. Philippe's parents are not entirely who he has believed they were, and he learns further about past family members whom he never knew existed. To say any more would be to reveal spoilers unnecessarily.

Grimbert's novella is neatly packaged, a chronological coming-of-age and coming-of-personal-awareness tale wrapped around Louise's account of the Grinberg/Grimbert family experiences during World War II. Dogs - real, stuffed toy, and buried in a pet cemetery - play a symbolic role in the story, as (perhaps a bit too neatly) does Maxime's and Tania's facility with diving.

One is tempted to argue that the same Holocaust story has been told many times before, just as the Cultural Revolution story from China has been recounted in so many different ways. What can be left still to say? Yet when all is said and done, MEMORY effectively adds another small chapter to the full story and reminds us once again of the devastating choices such horrors force upon both victims and perpetrators. Perhaps what makes this book different is that we see the Holocaust events one generation removed. Grimbert displays their after-effects as imposed on a young man who was not yet born during that turbulent era and who must view everything he learns through a lens that simultaneously informs who he is and corrects his beliefs about who and what he thought he was.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memories, individual and collective March 11 2008
By David Light - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Grimbert's novella explores memory on at least two levels: through the narrator's retelling of his family's trauma during World War II and subsequently; and against the backdrop of the Vichy regime under the direction of Pierre Laval. France's shame for the latter is revealed in brief strokes; in a classroom, for example, in which teenaged children circa 1963 laugh (nervously? uncomprehendingly?) at a film that depicts broken bodies in one of the death camps; in a cemetery on Laval's former estate in which the family dogs have been lovingly buried.

These dogs stand in contrast to two dogs belonging to members of the narrator's family--one that is stuffed and is discovered hidden away in an attic; another, named Echo, who is killed by a car. The narrator, primarily through discussions with a family friend, pieces together the secret, or secrets, that haunt the family over the decades that follow the war.

At the heart of the book is a love story whose contours would merely be melancholy but common in a normal time; within its context, however, it takes on a tragic cast. That story propels the reader through this brief, affecting book.
4.0 out of 5 stars Memory March 23 2009
By Sandra - Published on
Format: Paperback
Fifteen year old Philippe finally learns the truth about his family's history. Having always felt that there was a secret that enshrouded his family, making it impossible for them to move on, he discovers, from a family friend, the truth about his parents and the brother he never knew. Narrated in the first person, this book has a first-hand feel as he reveals the destructiveness that a secret can hold.

This concise fictionalized account of the author's family history is written more from a psychological viewpoint than from that of a mere story. This makes sense, since Mr. Grimbert, the author, is a psychoanalyst. Spare on words, but generous on emotions, this little book stresses how the ramifications of the Holocaust will forever linger within memories that shape lives. Inhuman disaster of such cataclysmic proportion lingers in the human experience for generations, transforming human existence.

This book is interesting, but there were many missed opportunities for development of the story line. Maybe this is due to the fact that this book is so succinct. It does have a certain charm due to its simplicity.

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