Hedwig and Berti

Frieda Arkin

Thomas Dunne Books

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Thirty-five years after publication of her first novel, The Dorp (followed by other works on cooking and gardening), Frieda Arkin returns to the world of fiction to give us another darkly humorous novel, Hedwig and Berti.

Hedwig and Berti is a saga of the totally unlikely marriage of a grandly Teutonic woman, Hedwig Kessler, and her diminutive cousin Berti, two upper-class 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, and finely-honed, and their story is 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.

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Praise for Hedwig and Berti

"Within minutes of starting Hedwig and Berti I was declaring it 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. I am recommending this fabulous book to every person I pass on the street."
- Elinor Lipman, author of The Inn at Lake Devine and The Pursuit of Alice Thrift

"An exhilarating and important work, Hedwig and Berti is a book of rare narrative energy. Frieda Arkin draws each of her characters with humor, sorrow, and the sharpest of prose. It has been many years since Arkin's beautiful first novel, The Dorp, but it has been well worth the wait."
- Peter Orner, author of Esther Stories

"Only lazy and inept writers stock their books with ordinary people. Good writers know there's no such thing as an ordinary person: we are each of us terrifically peculiar. Hedwig and Berti, their furious daughter, and all the other characters who move in and out of their lives are very peculiar indeed, and it is only when we look back on this glinting, unsparing novel that we can appreciate the role historic events may assume in misshaping our special little selves. Ms. Arkin is an excellent writer who betrays her age only in the breadth and depth of her understanding of human nature."
- Jincy Willett, author of Winner of the National Book Award

"I was thoroughly taken with this wonderful novel. Frieda Arkin manages to charm us into full involvement with her characters, and then takes us on a breathtaking journey through their lives. . . . you will not be able to put this fine novel down. You have in your hands a work of art that will endure."
- Joseph Hurka, author of Fields of Light: A Son Remembers His Heroic Father, Winner of the Pushcart Editors' Book Award

Reviews from Goodreads


About the Author

Frieda Arkin

Frieda Arkin's work has been twice selected for Best American Short Stories and her first novel, The Dorp, was published in 1969 to wide critical acclaim.

She attended the Juilliard School of Music and received her Master's in anthropology from Columbia University. She has written five cookbooks, a gardening book, a number of poems, and articles for Woman's Day, The Christian Science Monitor, The Massachusetts Review, The Georgia Review, The Kenyon Review, The Yale Review, and Yankee magazine.

Frieda Arkin's short stories have appeared in journals including The Massachusetts Review, The Kenyon Review, and The Yale Review. After a long hiatus from fiction, when she turned to raising a family and writing a series of cookbooks, Frieda joined the late Andre Dubus's writing group, prospering under his mentorship while completing Hedwig and Berti. She lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

Frieda Arkin


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Available Formats and Book Details

Hedwig and Berti
Frieda Arkin


Massachussetts Book Award - Honor Book

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
St. Martin's Press
Thomas Dunne Books
March 2006
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781466838710
ISBN10: 146683871X
272 pages
Age Range: 12 to 17
Grade Range: 7 and up

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Thomas Dunne Books

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