“My new favorite novel. Characters and storytelling like this belong in the Fiction Hall of Fame, in the wing reserved for wry and sly masterpieces.”
---Elinor Lipman, author of The Inn at Lake Devine and The Pursuit of Alice Thrift
Hedwig and Berti is a saga of the totally unlikely marriage of a grandly Teutonic woman, Hedwig Kessler and her diminutive cousin Berti, two upperclass German Jews forced to leave their homeland during the rise of the Nazis. They flee to London, then to New York City and from there, finally, to a university town in Kansas. In London, Hedwig gives birth to a daughter whose broodingly dark construction and immense genius for the piano point back in time to the tragedy of her bloodline.
This is a story of prejudice taken to extremes, both within the domain of a severely class-conscious German-Jewish family, and beyond it. The characters are subtle, finely honed and told with grace and unexpected humor. Like Penelope Fitzgerald, Frieda Arkin possesses a rare gift for combining love, wit, and dark realism in the reactions and behavior of her characters in the several cultures they are forced to adapt to.
“Second acts this good are rare…A deliciously vinegary second novel.”
---The New York Times Book Review
“Arkin depicts these damaged characters...with unflinching honesty and rueful insight...A bravura encore worth the wait.”
---Kirkus Reviews (starred review)