on July 15, 2016
As a candidate for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, I expected this book to be a wonderful read; instead what I got was a story that trudged along without any clear indication of where it was going. I found it tough going almost from the start, and in the end I gave up about half-way through because I couldn't get a sense of any kind of story through all the detail.
This book had to have been edited, right? What am I missing here?
on March 19, 2014
The character that most interested me is Lily, (not her real name) who assumed the identity of a dead woman in order to escape the ravages of oppression and war in Europe. While Lily thought she'd succeeded in fooling everyone in her new home of Canada, one individual knew that she was not the true Lily - and so the author sets up the main conundrum of the novel. Who is this woman who married Nathan, entered a sexual relationship with this man who was in love with her, bore a baby girl and then simply vanished, leaving milk bottles in the cold box?
Just as Lily once abandoned her own identity, she now deprives her daughter of a part of hers, and so perpetuates the theme of loss of identity. The fact that Lily married yet again, and bore a son to yet another man, struck me as odd. I wondered if this new relationship was deeper and better because she'd had years to reflect upon her past. Yet, it seems that motherhood did not motivate Lily to heal. Perhaps the rocks she sends her poor daughter over the years, (and the milk in the ice-box) symbolize the depth of her own fragmentation. The novel reminded me that many traumatized individuals cannot handle more than superficial connection. Instead, the shell-shocked flee love's upsetting demands and, as a result, are deprived of joy. This is a good novel for those who wish to know more about the ravages of post-traumatic stress on the human heart - and good reasons to heal.
Eleanor Cowan, author of A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer
on October 21, 2014
Don't know quite how to evaluate this book. The premise is excellent and I thought it would knock my socks off. It didn't. The beginning was good and so was the ending but I had to really apply myself to get through the middle or should I say most of the book. It is well written and the characters are good but I kept wanting to know more about the mother, where she went, something about her life. I wanted her to somehow contact her daughter with something more than stones. It seems a bit unnatural for a mother to do that but then at that period in history people were not as open and as accepting as they are now. I'm glad I read it but I won't be reading it again.
It is after the Second World War in Poland when a damaged young woman assumes the identity of a dead girl she sees lying on the street. The name of the dead girl is Lily Azerov. The woman finds an identity card, a notebook filled with dreams and other scribblings written in Yiddish, a pair of woolen socks and a single frosted stone, which she knew to be a diamond. She puts the socks on over her own worn socks and everything else inside the waistband of her trousers. Nothing went unused in Poland. She didn't know Lily in life. This would be her chance of getting out of Poland to escape the horrors of the war and she was going to take this opportunity. She had lost her family and had no one but herself. She then assumes the identity of Lily.
She is determined to survive and she knew she should now flee. She stopped and closed the dead girl's eyes. This she did for the girl whose future she was stealing.
She remembers the name she read in the notebook, Sonya Nemetz and her address in Tel Aviv. Lily goes to Sonya. Sonya hadn't seen her Cousin Lily in a long time, but she knew this was not her Cousin Lily. Sonya wrote her sister, Ida Pearl in Montreal and told her the story. Someone landed on her doorstep and claims to be their Cousin Lily. Only Sonya can't remember Lily looking like that. Sonya feels sorry for her and invites her in her home and confronts the lie, but she doesn't flinch. She sends Lily to Mrs. Zlotnik who can arrange anything she needs eg papers, marriages, jobs and whatever is needed. Lily leaves the diamond with Mrs. Zlotnik to pay for her services. Mrs. Zlotnik was afraid that it was stolen, but she told Lily to leave it for a few days. It took a few months for a marriage to be arranged and it was. Lily was going to Montreal to wed the lucky bridegroom named Sol Kramer.
When Lily gets off the train in Montreal, Sol Kramer and his brother Nathan are waiting for her at the station. Sol gets cold feet and decides she is damaged goods and he rejects her. Nathan steps in and feels sorry that she travelled so far only to be left stranded. However, Nathan can't let this happen. He wants to marry her. He likes her and in a short time he grows to love her. Nathan and Lily marry and go on to have a baby girl they named Ruthie.
Nathan's brother Sol is sorry he let Lily go, but at this point he can't do anything about it. He then goes on to marry a young girl named Elka. Elka's mother is a Cousin to the "real" Lily. Lily isn't too happy about the situation, because now the "real" Lily's Canadian relatives are too close to the Imposter Lily. One day, Lily tells everyone she is going out to buy milk for the baby, only never to return. Before she left, she had prepared milk for baby Ruthie. She left Ruthie the notebook and the rock. Nathan and the family were shocked. Beginning with Nathan's mother, Bella, Sol's new wife Elka and the other women in the family, they all take over and look after Ruthie, giving her lots of love. Nathan, too, makes sure Ruthie has everything she needs.
As Ruthie grows older, she wonders why her mother left. Rocks arrive consistently in the mail, an ongoing communication over the years of Ruthie's childhood. Leaving rocks is a Ritual of Mourning in the Jewish faith. Ruthie is curious as to why her mother left her and her father. She asks Nathan, her father. Even Nathan has no answer.
Did Lily leave because she was coming close to being found out? Was her conscience bothering her? Was she in love with Sol? After going through the horrors of the war and losing her family, was she depressed? Did she kill the "real" Lily? Did Ruthie finally find her mother?
Nancy Richler has written an unforgettable book. The writing is clear and smooth. The characters are true-to-life. Ms. Richler has given us a wonderful look at Jewish Society in Post-War Montreal.
I enjoyed The Imposter Bride and can highly recommend it. It merits 5 out of 5 Stars.
on March 24, 2014
While The Imposter Bride wasn't a bad book, I found that it wasn't one that I enjoyed very much. I liked Richler's idea behind the plot, but I didn't much care for the way she wrote it.
I did, however, like the characters of both Ruth and Lily, and I liked where the plot ended up going. I also enjoyed the way that Richler was able to get across everyday life in each of the novel's time periods.
Overall, I would recommend this novel to anyone who has an interest in Canadian history, as well as in the idea of solving the mystery that is Lily.
Even though this story was well-written, I found that overall it was rather gloomy. The storyline was intriguing in some ways. A mystery usually is. However, by the time I'd finished the book, I realized that it left me with an "ashes in the mouth" feeling. Some people might like this kind of novel, but I won't recommend it.
on May 18, 2012
This is the engrossing and highly readable story of "Lily Azerov" who has fled Eastern Europe after the turmoil and horror of the Second World War. In Palestine, she makes arrangements to marry a Canadian Jew, Sol Kramer. Sol, however, detects something not quite right beneath Lily's calm exterior. He decides not to marry her, but his brother Nathan does. However, all does not proceed smoothly: some of the actual Lily's Canadian relatives show up at the wedding and realize that this woman is impersonating their cousin. The imposter bride appears to have assumed Lily's identity in an attempt to escape the trauma and horror of her war experience. Not long after, the young wife, apparently fearing exposure by the true Lily's cousin, Ida, flees Montreal, her marriage, and her three-month old child, not knowing that Ida has her own painful past and no intention of calling this damaged young woman on her assumed identity.
The book largely focuses on the growing determination of Lily's daughter Ruth, who has grown up motherless, to find her mother and uncover the secret of her past. All she has to go on are the beautiful rocks her mother has sent her at irregular intervals over the years since Ruth was six, an uncut diamond, and Lily Azerov's journal, which was appropriated by the "imposter bride" somewhere along the way.
Author Richler has woven a richly rewarding novel of character,family, secrets, and history. In the Imposter Bride, she explores the deeply and uniquely human need to discover where we come from. Highly recommended.
on November 18, 2013
I'm not quite sure what to say about this novel. I liked it and I certainly wanted to finish it and yet I was frustrated with it and I'm not sure I can explain why. Perhaps it was Ruth's lack of initiative in trying to find her mother. It seemed to me she should have pushed more. Perhaps it was her family's lack of communication with her about her mother. Perhaps it was the stones her mother sent her -- why a mother who abandoned her child would choose to send stones is a mystery. Perhaps it was the ending which I won't say more about so as not to give any spoilers. Despite my frustrations with the story, I'm glad I read the book.
on April 1, 2013
I liked this book - again it gave me an insight of how people behaved among each other in that era - had trouble with all the names and relationships. Most people I know also had this trouble but it didn't interfere with the story line.
Nancy Richler is a writer based in Montreal, and The Imposter Bride is the story of a young woman, Lily Azerov, who flees to Montreal from a devastated postwar Europe. Canada is not yet accepting Jewish refugees, so Lily immigrates on the pretext that she is engaged to be married to a Canadian. Sol has agreed to marry her, sight unseen, for a fee. However:
"When he saw the bride, he recoiled. Damaged goods. That's what he saw. A broken life, a frightened woman, a marriage that would bind him - however briefly - to grief. Let someone else marry her, he decided on the spot. He would never deny the widows and the orphans of the world. But neither, it turned out, did he want to have to marry them."
Lily is not what he had expected, so he leaves her high and dry. Fortunately his brother Nathan Kramer decides to marry her on the spot. But, it turns out that:
"Lily Azerov Kramer. She was not who she said she was.
No one really is, I suppose, but Lily's deception was more literal than most. Her name before... she'd left it there, in that beaten village where the first Lily had died, freeing, among other things, an identity card to replace the one she'd discarded, an identity that could propel a future if someone would just step into it.
Someone would, of course. The village was in Poland, 1944. Nothing went unused."
Lily has a child with Nathan, but with no explanation, suddenly disappears.
As she ages, Ruth, their daughter, is driven to understand the truth about her mother, about where she went, and where she came from.
A compelling and touching story.