By: Brigitte Goldstein
Publication Date: August 2019
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: September 6, 2020
Entering the war-torn environs of post-World War II Germany to find a lost relative, a young woman undertakes an adventure fraught with danger in this multi-layered mystery/romance by award-winning author Brigitte Goldstein.
Writer Artemisia Safran is safe; she and her parents have become American citizens after fleeing Nazi Germany in the early years of Hitler’s rise to power. Barely a year after the war’s end, though, she gets a strange, and unverifiable, letter that claims to have located the whereabouts of her grandmother, last seen at Theresienstadt, an infamous concentration camp. Against her parents’ better wishes, Safran sets out to uncover the truth.
Once in Europe, Safran must assume a German identity, paying underground agents to become Beate Hauser. However, she lacks certain papers needed to corroborate her faked documents, and is questioned. She fears revealing her true status and purpose, so she is imprisoned by Major Emil Zweig, where she will be surrounded by women who hate Americans and still revere the dead Fuhrer. In what seems a fated encounter, she is approached by Frantiçek Kafka, who recognizes her as a Jew like himself and spirits her away from the prison to work for an underground network that surprisingly includes Zweig. As she is increasingly entangled in Kafka’s net, she is also in love. This love will buoy her through many interlocking international conspiracies both life threatening and life affirming.
Goldstein has many distinctions to her credit including translation of the Lodz Ghetto writings of Oskar Rosenfeld. In Babylon Laid Waste, she has created a vast, rich tapestry, with many crossing threads of imagination, some of which connect to historical places and people. The man who most powerfully touches Safran is undeniably modeled after Franz Kafka, a German Jewish author from an earlier era whose writing, like that of Goldstein herself, mixes reality with mystical and sometimes dark forces. The magnetism of Goldstein’s Kafka will motivate Safran, expand her horizons and turn her destiny in new directions. At times the reader may feel a bit overwhelmed at the many subplots and diverse characters that flow through Goldstein’s narrative, but will find they all loop back to a realistic, satisfying denouement. Her book will be appreciated by intelligent fans of historical fiction, especially those readers drawn to explorations of the evils of Nazism and the triumphant spirit of the many brave souls who faced and fought against it.
Quill says: Goldstein’s latest historical novel will intrigue and engage with its strong resonances of the lurking remnants of Nazism and the rebirth of Jewish identity and spirit, seen through the eyes of a gifted, intrepid young woman.
For more information on Babylon Laid Waste: A Journey in the Twilight of the Idols, please visit the author's website at: www.brigittegoldstein.com