A Fifty Year Silence
Love, War and A Ruined House in France
by Miranda Richmond Mouillot
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Pub Date 26 Mar 2015 | Archive Date 24 Feb 2015
A young woman crosses the globe to uncover the truth about her grandparents’ mysterious estrangement and pieces together the extraordinary story of their wartime experiences
In 1948, after surviving World War II by escaping Nazi-occupied France for refugee camps in Switzerland, the author’s grandparents, Anna and Armand, bought an old stone house in a remote, picturesque village in the South of France. Five years later, Anna packed her bags and walked out on Armand, taking the typewriter and their children. The two never saw or spoke to each other again, never remarried, and never revealed what had divided them forever.
A Fifty-Year Silence is the deeply involving account of Miranda Richmond Mouillot’s journey to find out what happened between her grandmother, a physician, and her grandfather, an interpreter at the Nuremberg Trials, who refused to utter his wife’s name aloud after she left him. To discover the roots of their embittered and entrenched silence, Miranda abandons her plans for the future and moves to their stone house, now a crumbling ruin; immerses herself in letters, archival materials, and secondary sources; and teases stories out of her reticent, and declining, grandparents.The author reconstructs how Anna and Armand braved overwhelming odds and how the knowledge her grandfather acquired at Nuremberg destroyed their relationship. As she does so, Miranda wrestles with the legacy of trauma, the burden of history, and the complexities of memory. She also finds herself learning how not only to survive, but to thrive - making a home in the village and falling in love.
With warmth, humour, and rich, evocative details that bring her grandparents’ outsized characters and their daily struggles vividly to life, A Fifty-Year Silence is a heartbreaking, uplifting love story spanning two continents and three generations.
A Note From the Publisher
UK requests only will be authorised, as this publisher does not hold rights in other territories.
is exceedingly rare to find a book that touches you deep down – page by page –
through the rawness of its story and its sheer insight. A Fifty-Year Silence is one such
book. The extraordinary quality of the prose, the elegance of
the storytelling, and the genius with which Richmond Mouillot has
laid down the twists and turns make this a book to treasure. As good as
any detective story, it is a memoir that sings to us all and one that I
recommend very highly indeed.’ Tahir Shah, author of The Caliph’s House
‘An existential detective story, a family chronicle, a journey of self-discovery, a meditation on memory, a reckoning with ghosts of a tragic past – and miraculously this luminous book succeeds on all levels. The complex, unforgettable characters of Anna and Armand belong in a novel. The author’s own quest to uncover the startling truth about their relationship has the candor and intimacy of the best kind of memoir.’ Anya von Bremzen, author of Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking
confronts a truth that most memoirs deny: even the most thorough investigation
of family history cannot elucidate the heart of the past. Richmond Mouillot’s
voice – shaped by stories, yet resisting any single story – does the profound
work of using imagination, place, love, and art to transform the unknowable
past into a rooted, liberating spring of identity.’ Anouk Markovits, author of I Am Forbidden
‘The past is truly prologue in Miranda Richmond Mouillot’s loving, suspenseful, and determined quest to uncover the mysterious wound that divides her family. She holds us fascinated in intimate spaces where generations seek each other and beautifully explores how time and memory challenge all of us.’ Leslie Maitland, author of Crossing the Borders of Time
‘A Fifty-Year Silence brings to life a singular family across generations, whose lives refuse to become a cliché. This story of love and war, written in elegant, sometimes soaring prose, grapples with life, death, and the mystery of resilience.’ Marianne Szegedy-Maszák, author of I Kiss Your Hands Many Times
‘Richmond Mouillot draws a powerful portrait of her beloved grandparents, long estranged from one another yet both in love with their only granddaughter, whose own lives are a microcosm of the impact of the Holocaust. In discovering what drove them apart, she unfolds a captivating, intensely moving tale of family, love, war, loss, and finding oneself in the tea leaves of the past.’ Sarah Wildman, author of Paper Love
‘A keenly observed and poignant memoir of one young woman’s journey from North Carolina to the south of France, and from the present day into the dark spaces in the history of her family and of Europe.’ Matti Friedman, author of The Aleppo Codex and winner of the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature
ENCHANTING SETTING: Richmond Mouillot conjures the charms of the
French countryside and the intimacy of small-town life precisely and elegantly.
THIRD GENERATION: Amidst the abundance of books from Holocaust survivors and the children of those affected by the war, few nonfiction accounts of the Holocaust and World War II have been written from the perspective of the grandchildren. A Fifty-Year Silence explores the afterlife of the past for young Jewish people today and provokes an important dialogue about the inheritance of historical memory.
ALLURE OF A MYSTERY: Family secrets and their slow unraveling is a proven subject matter for memoir.
RELATABLE VOICE: As a debut author and a young woman navigating the conflicting imperatives to remember the past and embrace her future, Richmond Mouillot writes with a warmth, directness, and honesty that will endear her to a broad readership.