Paper Children by Marcia Fine
(Summary taken from the back book cover) “Driven by cataclysmic world events, the story encompasses the lives of three generations of women. In Book One, Paulina, the privileged daughter of aristocratic parents, reluctantly follows her driven businessman husband to America in 1929. From a vantage point in New York she endures a difficult marriage and slowly becomes aware of the destruction of her large extended family in Poland as the Nazis tighten their grip on Europe. Book Two begins in 1940 following Paulina’s daughter Sarah, as she pursues a career in photography. Sent on assignment to the Displaced Persons camps in Europe, Sarah is shaken loose from her faith and pursues a hedonistic path. The Third book deals with Mimi, Sarah’s daughter. A solitary young woman, she becomes curious about the family’s past. She explores the Holocaust and searches for her roots. In a confrontational scene Paulina hands over her family’s pre-war correspondence that she calls her “Paper Children.”
I really like the concept of this book. I like that it follows three generations of women in a family, and shows how they lived, and the national and world events that happened during their lives. I like that you can see how choices made by these women affected not only them, but how they affected their children and grandchildren as well. It helps me to see that there is importance in this motherhood thing.
I really liked the first book in the story. I found it fascinating to learn how a privileged family lived in Poland at the beginning of the 20th century. I had no idea. I enjoyed learning about Paulina and her family. Even though I didn’t love her husband in the story, I did like that he was so driven and no matter what happened he picked himself up and moved on. The story was depressing a lot of the time, but I liked it. Times were tough, and so it seemed ok. Paulina was very proper and wanted to do everything a good Jewish girl would do. A lot of the first book dealt with her trying to be proper. And then comes book two. Wow, did book two throw me for a loop! I liked it at first with Sarah going to the Displaced Person camps and seeing the devastation for herself. She picks up smoking (which her mother hates) and loses her faith in God while she is there, right at the beginning. Then within 30 pages Ms. Fine throws in this out of place (completely opposite of book one) sensual love-making scene that completely took me by surprise. It is very detailed. I’ll put it that way. Very detailed.
Unfortunately, I think the book goes downhill from there. A lot of the rest of book two is about “physical intimacy” and it was too much for me. There is also a lot of profanity. There are lessons to be learned, but, I think there are better ways to learn them. The story, at that point, just lost a lot of its excitement. I had to push through to the end. Then comes book three and I thought it was completely unrealistic. It starts when Mimi is four years old. I have an almost-four-year-old, and it just didn’t fit. For example, Mimi, at four, supposedly says, “The year of mourning after my grandfather’s death became a slow dirge of cleaning out closets, consolidating bank accounts, and shuffling papers.” My daughter would never say anything even close to that. The vocabulary is much to difficult for that age. I wish it would have started when she was 12 or older, I think it would have been much more realistic. It does catch up with her age, and she has her own love-making scenes. It takes her through the sixties with their anti-war demonstrations and tie-dye t-shirts. It may just be me, but this time period doesn’t interest me as much as the earlier times do, and so I just wasn’t interested at this point. And it was still depressing. I felt more depressed and let down at the end than I did during the war times.
In other words, I didn’t love this book. It was ok. I couldn’t recommend it to any of my friends because of the “physical intimacy” and language. There is also violence, including domestic violence and WWII camp devastation. However, if those things don’t bother you and you enjoy reading about people and their histories, then you may enjoy this book.
Rating: R (Remember, this does not follow the movie ratings exactly, it’s just my way of saying it is NOT for younger readers.) There is a lot of “physical intimacy,” language, violence (including domestic violence), smoking, and war-time devastation.
Recommendation: Married and up. Definitely.
Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy of this book for my review. This did not sway my review in any way. All my reviews are honest.