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Library Journal Review
This British first novel tells two tales, which converge at the end. In Ecuador, a young man named Leo Deakin awakes in a rural hospital after a bus crash to discover that his girlfriend, Eleni, has died in the accident, leaving Leo heartbroken and distraught. He insists on staying close to her corpse, as it is embalmed and then flown back to a Greek island to be buried near her family. He returns to England and, consumed by grief, tries to begin living again. The other story begins in Ulanow, Poland, where a young Jewish man named Moritz Daniecki falls in love with a beautiful and wealthy young woman named Lotte just before the beginning of World War I. They barely have time to declare their affection for each other before Moritz is swept up into the army of the Austrian Empire and its conflict. Moritz is captured by the Russians and sent to a POW camp in remote Siberia. As the war grinds on thousands of miles away, the Russian political situation descends into the maelstrom of the revolution, and in the confusion Moritz and a companion walk out of the camp and begin a trek back to Poland and Lotte. Leo, having made a mess of his personal life arrives back at his parents' house, and it is from a story his father tells him that the connections in the novel are made clear. Absorbing and emotionally engaging, this novel, evidently popular in England, should have broad appeal and is recommended for collections that have a demand for quality historical fiction and moving human interest stories.--Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Young Leo Deakin wakes in a hospital in Ecuador in 1992 to discover that his girlfriend, Eleni, has died in a bus crash. Overwhelmed with guilt and grief, Leo returns to life seeking the meaning behind his new predicament: left behind, haunted by his dead lover and ambivalent over whether he should shake her hold on him. In an effort to break through his son's grief, Leo's dad imparts the tale of Leo's grandfather Moritz Daniecki, who as a WWI POW escaped across the Siberian wasteland to make it back to the woman he loved. The parallel powers of love and grief form the meeting points of these mirror sagas, which Scheinmann combines to remarkable effect. Leo and Moritz are tender, deeply feeling, put-upon characters who never descend into mawkishness; indeed, readers will feel most for Leo when he's at his worst. Dotted with strange scientific trivia, this beautiful debut novel provides deft moments of poignancy and surprise. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, Tennyson once wrote. The primary characters in Scheinmann's poignant debut novel are powerful examples of that sentiment. British professor Leo Deakin had been enjoying an exotic trip to Ecuador with his beloved Eleni when she was killed in a bus crash on one of the country's notoriously perilous roads. Leo survived the accident, and his wounds healed, but his grief never abated. Nearly a century earlier, Polish soldier Moritz Daniecki bravely battled World War I and endured several POW camps, only to find himself thousands of miles from his sweetheart, Lotte. He trekked across the most desolate stretches of Siberia to reach her, ever wondering whether she would remember him at all. The link between Leo's and Moritz's lives is revealed in the novel's late pages, as is Scheinmann's very personal reason for penning the tale. Some may be frustrated by the novel's lack of cohesion and flow, but the narrative strategy builds suspense, and the love story itself will hold readers.--Block, Allison Copyright 2008 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
An antiphonal narrative covers a physical trek from Siberia to Poland around the time of the Russian Revolution and an emotional journey from grief to love in the early 1990s. While on an adventurous journey to Ecuador in 1992, Leo Deakin and his Greek lover Eleni have an accident that leaves her dead and him inconsolable. After Eleni's funeral, Leo makes his way home to England to continue his academic work (he's writing a dissertation on ants), but he's crushed by grief and unable to concentrate. His father Frank is uncommunicative and of little therapeutic help; ditto for Charlotte Philips, a saccharine bereavement counselor: "If marzipan could speak it would sound like Mrs. Charlotte Philips." Leo's friend Hannah is sympathetic, though she seems at first ill suited to be Leo's romantic partner. Meanwhile, Leo latches on to Roberto Panconesi, a charismatic physics professor who promises to provide a philosophical framework making sense of the apparent randomness of life. The novel alternates between Leo's despair and a seemingly unconnected narrative in which Moritz Daniecki recounts the story of his life to his young son Fischel in 1938, a few weeks after Kristallnacht. Moritz's life has also been one of tragedy and loss. His incipient, innocent love for Lotte was interrupted by his service in World War I; after being captured by the Russians and imprisoned in Siberia, he made his way back to Poland and learned that Lotte was living in Vienna and engaged to be married. The reader must have faith that these deftly juxtaposed stories at some point will intersectand toward the end of the novel they do, with satisfying resonance. While at times predictable and prosaic, the mutually reinforcing narratives ultimately convey debut novelist Scheinmann's message of the redemptive power of love. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.