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austria

The Exiles Return: A Novel
by Elisabeth de Waal

The Exiles Return, published posthumously, follows a few former exiles that have returned to Austria after World War II. Some are aristocrats, some Jewish, some rather ordinary people, most of them out to make what they can of lives shattered and changed by war. I found this an unusual subject, one that hasn’t been written about often. Each of these characters is fascinating is his or her own way. Vienna is also a major character; wonderful descriptions of both the city and the Austrian countryside abound. Elisabeth de Waal is the grandmother of Edmund de Waal, author of The Hare with Amber Eyes, a memoir in which she plays a prominent part. These two books should be read in sequence, the memoir first, novel second.

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“ … we are allowed to hear a voice that has not only endured but, by the subtlety and fervor of its free expression, triumphed.” – Andrew Ervin, The New York Times Sunday Book Review 

“ … the novel engages directly (if not always with 21st-century sensibilities) with topics that may have frightened away publishers two generations ago: Nazi atrocities, abortion and homosexuality.x… evocative and altogether memorable.” – Erika Dreifus, The Washington Post

“ … The train had left the mountains behind. The countryside was flat, green and wooded. A road ran next to the railway track, a narrow road. Beyond it: fields, a copse of fir trees, then, in the distance, a cluster of houses and a church with a steeple crowned with a bulbous top like a Turkish turban. Adler smiled as he saw it … He would spend his holidays walking in the mountains, at an inn in a remote valley. It was years since he had walked. The prospect gave him a thrill of pleasure. He was coming home … .” – The Exiles Return, Picador, 2013 edition.