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A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France

by Miranda Richmond Mouillot

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2194197,828 (3.68)8
"A memoir by a young woman who travels to France to uncover the truth about her grandparents' mysterious and irrevocable estrangement and pieces together the extraordinary story of their wartime experiences"--Provided by publisher.
  1. 00
    The House of Jacob by Sylvie Courtine-Denamy (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: A Fifty-Year Silence traces the lives of the author's grandparents during and after World War II, and The House of Jacob painstakingly reconstructs the history of a Sephardic Jewish family. Both compelling works were inspired by the discovery of long-held secrets.… (more)
  2. 00
    The Journal of Hélène Berr by Hélène Berr (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: While A Fifty-Year Silence portrays the author's grandparents' lives in France during World War II, and The Journal of Helene Berr records a young Jewish woman's life in Nazi-occupied Paris, both offer moving and compelling depictions of the Holocaust.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
The cover and the title of Miranda Richmond Mouillot’s memoir intrigued me the most about reading, A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France. A fifty-year silence sparked my imagination about what kind of silence it could be, was or how was it resolved, and what could have led to it in the first place. Would there be a happy ending?

Come to find out, Mouillot was as intrigued as I about the silence. The back cover explains that in 1948 Anna and Armand bought a house together in the South of France. Five years later, Anna leaves France for the United States, taking only their children and a typewriter. “Aside from one brief encounter, the two never saw or spoke to each other again, never remarried, and never revealed what had divided them forever.” This reader wanted to know what was so horrible that separated two people for the remainder of their lives.

Mouillot is very close to her grandmother, Anna, and semi-close to grandpa Armand. She can’t get their relationship out of her mind, and eventually goes to France to see the house the family still owns. She takes a leave of absence from her job and goes in quest of her grandparents’ marriage. She has a year to complete her task; a year to write a book about her grandparents’ lives. I never really understood what drove her to undertake this, but only that she wanted to write about it.

The house is a dilapidated, uninhabitable ruin. Yet, Mouillot is undeterred. She finds housing nearby and undertakes restoring what little is left. Her grandmother won’t talk on the phone, so the two write letters. Readers are given snippets of what appears to be long letters that sometimes make sense and sometimes don’t.

Mouillot has spent a considerable amount of time with her grandfather, especially when she was sent to a nearby boarding school. It’s unclear if Armand is living in France or Switzerland. But now that she is back, she tries to get him to talk about his life, yet Armand is reluctant.

There are so many unanswered questions. Like were Anna and Armand ever truly married. Or divorced? In the five years they were together, most of that was spent apart as WWII raged across Europe. Armand was sent to a concentration camp, and survived; survived enough to become a translator during the Nuremberg Trials. The question of his citizenship is discussed, which I found strange. Surely he had to be a legal citizen in the county of birth.

What appealed to me about A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France is two-fold. First, Mouillot tries to understand her grandparent’s relationship; a relationship hampered by survivor guilt. In my mind, she never unravels or gets to the heart of the couple’s revulsion to each other. That makes this work truly realistic. Second, the story is as equally about Mouillot. It’s about her relationship with her grandparents, which becomes quite tender when Armand begins to suffer from dementia. And it’s about her relationship with her past, a legacy of survivor guilt, and her attempts to move forward---a new generation ready, if not totally able, to forget the past and surge ahead.

I give A Fifty-Year Silence: Love, War, and a Ruined House in France 4 out of 5 stars in Julie’s world. ( )
  juliecracchiolo | May 23, 2017 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The author's grandparents survived the Holocaust, but five years later, split up and never spoke to one another again. This family memoir is the author's attempt to figure out what happened by immersing herself in her grandparents' past. Mouillot visits the crumbing old house in the south of France where her grandparents marriage fell apart, and pieces together an incomplete story from old family letters, ephemera, secondary sources, and the few stories she can wring from her closed-lipped, elderly grandparents. And her quest opened a new story for Mouilot herself as she finds a home in the village and falls in love. ( )
  RoseCityReader | Nov 5, 2016 |
won this book off of www.listia.com is a true story
just finished it
was a very good book ( )
  KimSalyers | Oct 7, 2016 |
won this book off of www.listia.com is a true story
just finished it
was a very good book ( )
  KimSalyers | Oct 2, 2016 |
A solid 3.5 stars. I enjoyed this book, was able to follow the flow of the story-line, tho at times wishing i could tweak it, and was impressed with the descriptive style. Overall? Kudos to Miranda Mouillot for jumping in with both feet to give us the story of her grandparents.

I started initially wondering WHY? and HOW COME?? but the reader eventually comes to realize that not all lives and / or marriages are created to follow what we think are pre-set patterns. Who are we to point at a situation and question it, particularly during times of upheaval and "sourwvival"?? The author did more than her share of digging and ' did her grandparents proud'. ( )
  linda.marsheells | Sep 21, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
What do you think? Do you also believe
that what gives our lives their meaning
is the passion that suddenly invades us
heart, soul, and body, and burns in us
forever, no matter what else happens
in our lives?

—Sandor Marai, Embers

(translated by Carol Brown Janeway)
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This book is for Anna
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When I was born, my grandmother tied a red ribbon around my left wrist to ward off the evil eye.
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"A memoir by a young woman who travels to France to uncover the truth about her grandparents' mysterious and irrevocable estrangement and pieces together the extraordinary story of their wartime experiences"--Provided by publisher.

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A memoir by a young woman who travels to France to uncover the truth about her grandparents' mysterious and irrevocable estrangement and pieces together the extraordinary story of their wartime experiences.
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