callmemadam (callmemadam) wrote,

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The Unfortunates

‘It was just as well I had slipped off my ear correcting bandages…(or)…I would never have heard my mother’s screams.’ This book starts as it goes on: funny, strange, riveting. Poppy Minkel, the mustard heiress, is discontented with her lot and determined to escape from her mother, aunt and the rest of the family as soon as she can. They are a Jewish family, a family which somehow mislaid its Jewishness on the way from Duluth, Minnesota to New York in a search for better Society. So who are the Unfortunates? The huddled masses arriving in America before the First World War, the Irish, people who have to live without ‘help’ in the home. Poppy mixes with all these, with Parisian bohemians and the English landed gentry. She is so self centred, so ignorant of anything that happens in the world that doesn’t pertain to her that in 1939, her ‘pansy’ English friend has to force her out of France and she still doesn’t see what she has to escape from. By the end of the book we’ve been through two world wars and any number of births, marriages and deaths. Has Poppy escaped? In a way, she’s come home. I wanted to read this because I enjoyed The Future Homemakers of America so much. This is even better; in fact it’s dazzling.
Tags: books, laurie graham

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