The author events at #booktopiaVT were “sessions,” – small groups devoted to conversation about a particular book or topic. Aside from authors discussing a specific title, there was one session about writing about place (Howard Frank Mosher and Sarah J. Henry talked about their Vermont settings – perfect, since we were in Vermont!); another was “bookseller speed dating” with the staff at Northshire Bookstore; and another was a demonstration/explanation of their Espresso Book Machine. The Living in Booktopia book that I shared in my “book haul” post was printed on the Espresso.
One session I attended was with Leslie Maitland, discussing the personal story in her book, Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Story of War, Exile, and Love Reclaimed. The session was held in the dining room at the Inn at Manchester – I didn’t get a panoramic of the room, so you’ll have to imagine 25 avid book readers gathered in comfy dining chairs (with the scent of Frank’s impressive ‘country breakfast’ still lingering in the air).
Ms. Maitland is a former New York Times investigative reporter, and has worked in the paper’s Washington Bureau as a national correspondent. This background fueled her curiosity (and gave her the know-how and resources) to follow-up on a story she had heard all her life — that of her mother’s “lost love,” who she separated from when her Jewish family was forced to flee Europe at the start of WWII. Maitland’s mother, Janine, was engaged to this Frenchman named Roland, and was never able to fully let go of her longing for him.
Maitland’s book looks at the history of the period and the journey of this specific family; she also pieces together the puzzle of what happened to Janine and Roland in the half century since they parted. History, memoir, love story, in one impressively researched package, complete with family photos, memorabilia, maps, and other visuals … what more could you ask for!?
Here’s the publisher’s synopsis:
On a pier in Marseille in 1942, with desperate refugees pressing to board one of the last ships to escape France before the Nazis choked off its ports, an 18-year-old German Jewish girl was pried from the arms of the Catholic Frenchman she loved and promised to marry. As the Lipari carried Janine and her family to Casablanca on the first leg of a perilous journey to safety in Cuba, she would read through her tears the farewell letter that Roland had slipped in her pocket: “Whatever the length of our separation, our love will survive it, because it depends on us alone. I give you my vow that whatever the time we must wait, you will be my wife. Never forget, never doubt.”
Five years later – her fierce desire to reunite with Roland first obstructed by war and then, in secret, by her father and brother – Janine would build a new life in New York with a dynamic American husband. That his obsession with Ayn Rand tormented their marriage was just one of the reasons she never ceased yearning to reclaim her lost love.
Investigative reporter Leslie Maitland grew up enthralled by her mother’s accounts of forbidden romance and harrowing flight from the Nazis. Her book is both a journalist’s vivid depiction of a world at war and a daughter’s pursuit of a haunting question: what had become of the handsome Frenchman whose picture her mother continued to treasure almost fifty years after they parted? It is a tale of memory that reporting made real and a story of undying love that crosses the borders of time.
A Books on the Nightstand podcast features Leslie Maitland and Crossing the Borders of Time. You can also read the transcript of Maitland’s visit to the Diane Rehm Show. And, of course, you will want to read the book — hot off the presses in the past few weeks from Other Press.