I was not interested in politics. I didn't listen to the radio. I didn't like our Uncle Adolf. I didn't want to hear his voice. When we turned on the radio and he was giving a speech, I liked to say, 'There he goes again, screeching like a middle-aged woman going through the changes!' (26)
She is, however, indomitable, and successfully moves her tiresome family--her husband, her daughter, and her maid--to Weehawken, New Jersey. This is her story, and that of her daughter, Renate, and her grandaughter, Irene--or, as it were, the novel's author.
The voice of the German Matriarch is, for most of the book, nearly flawless and very often laugh-out-loud funny. For this triumph alone the book is worth reading. But the fictionalized and supremely sin-conscious Frau Doktor Rother would have diagnosed her own creator, her granddaughter, Irene, with the Sin of Self-Indulgence. At least 50 pages narrates the exploits of Irene in a voice it is difficult to hear as a grandmother's. There is simply too much Irene, at least 50 pages too much Irene, without esplanation and in too close detail, in a story that should have been about Elisabeth. Meanwhile, we lose decades of Elisabeth's own story as the narrator's focus shifts. Furthermore, the tone of the Irene narrative is so self-celebratory that it dismantles the careful character construct Dische had wrought for her indefatiguable narrator, Elisabeth Rother. To celebrate oneself at the cost of one's narrator's integrity: a grave Literary Sin indeed. A sad detraction from an otherwise highly enjoyable novel.