By Kurt Palka
McClelland & Stewart, Paperback, 9780771071324, 369pp.
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Clara Herzog is a privileged, intelligent, and thoughtful young woman whose world is changed forever when 1930s Vienna is swept up by the dark prelude of the Second World War. The cavalry officer she married in spite of her family's objections is soon called away to the thick of the conflict, and it falls to Clara, as to so many mothers, wives, sisters, and sweethearts through the centuries, to stay at home to provide and protect.
Through the war, its aftermath, and into the present, Clara must make choices and take risks that are as heroic and life-altering as any that men make in battle. She is an unforgettable character, and this is an unforgettable novel about family bonds and women's deep friendships, about courage and the love that can endure even in unimaginable times.
“Part love story, part tribute to the women and families left behind and the terrible hardships they faced with great dignity during the war. Palka weaves an intimate tapestry . . . . Unflinching in its realism yet devoid of sensationalism, Clara showcases Palka’s great attention to detail, which enhances an already beautiful and deeply moving story of hope, love, and triumph.”
—Booklist (starred review)
"Compelling . . . provides a discerning look at the Viennese and how they coped during the volatile periods during the 1930s, '40s - and post-war years. . . . Palka's book contains wisdom and elegance. He is a literary tour guide taking us into a post-Habsburg culture we could not access on our own."
—The Toronto Star
"In much the same way as Carol Shields did for Daisy Goodwill Flett in The Stone Diaries, Kurt Palka gives dignity to a life lived in his creation of Clara Herzog. . . . As do John Wray's The Right Hand of Sleep and Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone, it provokes questions about what we would have done if we had lived during the Third Reich. . . . Deals with some of the big themes in literature. But its lasting impression is that of a woman whose life mattered."
—Winnipeg Free Press