Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Advance look! The King's Arms by Sonia Taitz

In The King's Arms is published by McWitty Press and won't be out until October. It's a fun read. This book manages to be light and funny, serious and passionate and yet is wise, witty and deep. Class and identity, Oxford intellectuals and the Holocaust, theater, tradition and assimiliation are all probed here in a tale of love at first sight that actually has a satisfying happy ending. Here goes. Lily Taub is a marvel. She's academically gifted, the beautiful and articulate daughter of Holocaust survivors. She grows up in NY and is raised never to take safety or her status in life for granted. But Lily, who grew up with the devastating stories of her parents' life in the death camps, yearns for great romance, fun and frivolity, as well as respect in the world beyond the insular community of survivors. When Oxford offers her a scholarship to study, she happily escapes, savoring her new status, while fearing it will somehow be taken away, because she is a Jew. At first, Oxford proves a lonely place, where she is an outsider less because of religion, than her status as an American foreigner. Instead of a glorious time in the hallowed halls, she's in a depressing room or roaming gray rainy streets, while the entitled ones, whose families have belonged here for generations, go their merry way to pubs, parties and theater. She was taught religious piety, but London in the 70's is about youth reinventing the world. Unlike the Europe of the 1940's, the horrific present of her parents, Lily wants to join the privileged youth around her but finds she is an interloper, a voyeur to grand tradition. Then she meets Peter Aiken, a talented student and aspiring actor with an intellectual's biting wit and a kind heart underneath. Stunned by her intelligence, her repartee in what he thinks of as a NY "gangster" accent, and appreciative of her looks, Peter introduces her to his group and becomes her best friend. Then one night she is struck by the most handsome boy she has ever seen and follows him into The King's Arms, a pub, staring mesmerized. She learns his name, Julian, before fleeing the pub and her intense reaction to him. Later, she finds he's Peter's younger brother, the "black sheep" of his aristocratic family, who didn't get into Oxford. When Peter invites her to stay at the family mansion over break, Lily finds her welcome tepid, but then Julian arrives. And she can't resist his sweetly insistent desire. His mother, however, views Lily as the evil "other," taking advantage of her son. And she communicates her distrust to the young son of her second marriage, who views Lily as a threat. The situation comes to a climax when the family goes to a New Year's Eve party, leaving Lily home to babysit. Julian sneaks home to be with her, but there's an acccident. Lily is blamed, even by Peter, and undefended by Julian. She has to leave but at Oxford, finds her room is occupied. Homeless and friendless, she learns she is pregnant and decides to go back to New York. Her memory goes back to her namesake, the Lily of the camps, raped by an officer and abandoned, when she was carrying his child--a half Nazi/Jew. Lily compares that world and herself at Oxford. And she yearns for Julian, because her dual vision is something she has shared with him. With his poetic sensitivity, he understands her conflict and loves her for it. But he's unreachable and she is set to sail for him, when Peter intercepts her and convinces her to come to his parents' house. Julian arrives and finally comes to accept the reality of becoming a father. He declares his desire to make her people his and join her in New York. And for Lily, assimilation is not a fearful loss of identity but bravely forging ahead with a combined heritage for the new life she is carrying...Love does conquer all.