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The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler

The Imposter Bride (edition 2013)

by Nancy Richler

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2813140,152 (3.62)48
Title:The Imposter Bride
Authors:Nancy Richler
Info:St. Martin's Press (2013), Hardcover, 368 pages

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The Imposter Bride by Nancy Richler



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This is another of the shortlisted books for this year's Giller Prize. The bride in question is a Jewish woman who has fled Europe in WW2, and has eventually arrived in Montreal, to take part in an arranged marriage. As soon as her betrothed lays eyes on her, he rejects her, to his everlasting regret, because his brother steps in and does what needs to be done. But Lily Azerov is not who she claims to be, and soon after her daughter is born, she abandons her family. This story is told from multiple perspectives but mostly from that of the daughter as she grows up struggling to understand the absence of a mother, and then trying in vain to understand how a mother could leave her child. The mother leaves behind only a few enigmatic clues and a trail of stones over the years.
The writing is fluid and occasionally sparkles with lovely prose. The background story of the bride aka Lily is drip fed slowly to us, and the reasoning or excuses for this, as given by the book's characters, don't really ring true -- it just conveniently suits its role as a literary device. The story unfolds in a disappointingly predictable fashion, but in the end is all quite tidy, if not really satisfying. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
I was really touched by this story of loss: loss of family, identity, history, human connection. Richler did a fantastic job at capturing the hectic and ignoble days at the war was brought to an end and still people had to fight to survive. It must have been a time of terrible confusion, looking for absent relatives, pulling bits of broken lives faced the horrible reality of having to reconstruct from scratch.
I found Lily to be an incredibly human character: we can neither judge her or call her out on her actions. She was simply trying to catch her bearings. Richler did a tremendous job of contrasting Canadians who stayed at home and saw the war from afar compared to the European who lived it all too closely. The realities are so different and there is always that gap in understanding.
The structure of the novel is also very clever: a soul-searching book but revealed, little by little, so that the reader cannot help but want to dig deeper into the past, looking for clues, trying to figure out if Lily is good or bad.
I was very much enthralled and taken by this story, one which I would very much recommend. ( )
  Cecilturtle | Jun 9, 2014 |
I would have liked Nancy Richler's book more if it hadn't been shortlisted for Canada's Giller Prize. That nomination set my expectations higher than the book could sustain. If it hadn't been on the shortlist, on the other hand, I would never have looked twice at it. The cover art is banal and inaccurate and my copy of the book described it inaccurately on the back cover. It's marketed one way -- to appeal to the person who would enjoy a lush, romantic historical read, and it's placement on the Giller shortlist says something different -- that here is a novel of substance, that says something important in a new or especially skilled way.

The Imposter Bride falls somewhere in between these two promises. It's the story of a Polish-Jewish woman, Lily Azerov, who manages to be let into Canada in 1945 by becoming engaged to a Canadian man, Sol Kramer, who, upon seeing her emerge from the train carriage, decides that he can't follow through and marry her after all. His older brother, however, steps in and marries Lily himself and they settle into his mother's apartment in a Jewish working class neighborhood in Montreal. Lily has been scarred by her survival on the eastern edge of Poland during the war. She can't adjust to life in provincial Montreal and she is holding on to both her past and some sizable secrets, which affect her ability to form a new life in Canada.

The book may be about Lily, but she is never revealed, leaving a hole at the heart of the story. Even when the secrets of her past are brought to light, she remains in shadow, with that story, which could have been a novel of its own (and a much more exciting and powerful one), told in the most remote and unemotional way possible. What is left is the story of growing up in mid-century Montreal, in the small Jewish community there, which would have been an interesting story on its own were it not secondary to that of the enigmatic Lily's.

Richler may well someday be an author to be reckoned with, and this novel displays great research skills in depicting a small community at a specific place and time. ( )
1 vote RidgewayGirl | Jan 18, 2014 |
I tried getting into this book but unfortunately just couldn't. ( )
  amusedbybooks | Dec 21, 2013 |
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, who, on sight intimates the damage behind her calm demeanor. Sol quickly and shamefully decides not to marry Lily, but his brother Nathan does. Ida Krakauer and her teenaged daughter, Elka, show up at Nathan and Lily's wedding uninvited. Ida has heard from her sister Sonya in Tel Aviv that a young woman has recently been there posing as their cousin Lily. Ida determines, like Sonya, that Lily is indeed no relation of theirs, but someone who has assumed a new identity in an attempt to escape the trauma and horror of her war experience. Lily, apparently fearing exposure by Ida, flees Montreal, her marriage, and her three-month old child, though Ida, a self-made jeweler and gem cleaver with her own painful past has no intention of calling her 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. ( )
  fountainoverflows | Oct 12, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
The Imposter Bride is in many ways a mystery novel; the question of who Ruth’s mother actually is propels the narrative as pieces of her story are slowly revealed. In this vein, it is successful, leaving the reader hanging until near the end. But this book has far greater ambitions. It attempts to explore the process and necessity of unearthing the hidden parts of ourselves that lie buried in the traumas of the past — a past that often long precedes our existence. This is a deep and vast theme. One wishes Richler had ventured into it with less caution, giving readers the opportunity to view her characters in a more varied light than their good intentions and innocence suggest. In a realm of moral ambiguity, the full breadth and nuance of this sweeping narrative may fully come to life.
Finally, Richler is back, and with an elegant, ambitious, accomplished new work. The Imposter Bride elaborates Richler’s essential themes: Jewish history, maternal absence, female experience and the significance of the word. ...For those of us who are not children of survivors (I’m not), but who have friends who are (I do), and who have wondered (as I have) how a devastated Jewish family moves forward in faith and love and grace, this novel serves as a gut-wrenching education.
And yet, there is also something compelling about the saga Richler creates. We want to know each character’s history. Who is Lily, really? Why did she leave? Will Ruth ever find her? And what’s up with the rocks? There are many plot elements and scenes that could easily be deleted without detracting from the overall fabric of the narrative, but we are able to forgive these asides because, in the end, Richler manages to make us care about her vast catalogue of broken souls, even in their most trivial moments.
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You whom I could not save/Listen to me./Try to understand this simple speech as I would be ashamed of another./I swear, there is in me no wizardry of words./I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree -- Czeslaw Milosz, "Dedication", Warsaw, 1945
For Janet and Martin. And for Vicki.
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In a small room off a banquet hall in Montreal, Lily Karmer sat in silence with her new husband.
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The Imposter Bride is a jewel of a book. With a true storyteller’s craft, Richler spins her tale and her characters from the wreckage that was the inheritance of World War II, each life carrying a secret burden of loss. At the center of this story is a bride who comes to Canada with a stolen identity. The shockwaves that ripple out from her sudden disappearance shape—and bind—the lives of all those she touched. These are characters that will stay with you long after you read the last word of the book. They are characters that show us that even out of the greatest tragedy, it is possible to shape hope and love.
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A novel about a mysterious mail-order bride in the wake of World War II, whose sudden decision ripples through time to deeply impact the daughter she never knew.

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