Regina's Closet: finding my grandmother's secret journal by Diana M. Raab
Finished: Nov. 1, 2008
First Published: Sept. 30, 2008
Reason for Reading: Received a Review Copy from the author.
I was ten years old the morning I found my grandmother dead.
Comments: This is the author's fascinating memoir of her beloved grandmother who killed herself in 1964. Her own mother comes to visit her and each time she brings some nostalgic memento from the past to pass on to her daughter. One year, she brings a portfolio of typewritten pages which turn out to be the grandmother's retrospective memoir written some years before the author's birth. Regina Klein, Jewish, was born in 1903 in Poland and lived through the first world war. Subsequently her family moved to Vienna, then Paris and lived there until the very early days of WWII. They were then fortunate enough to decide to emigrate to the United States before France could be invaded by the Germans.
Actual entries from the journal are used in the book with the author's comments interspersed throughout adding more detail and information for the reader. Thus aiding in a deeper understanding of this woman. After the journal ends Ms. Raab continues the story of her own birth and the life of Regina, both through the eyes of her childhood self and with the deeper insight of her adult self.
This is a short book, which is a very fast read that includes both photographs and copies of documents as well as a map of the pre-WWI area. This book isn't about anyone famous or heroic but about a normal, yet very determined, woman and her family and the events of history that lead to that woman taking her own life at the age of sixty-seven for no apparent reason.
This is a truly wonderfully well-written book. The author inserts just enough of herself into the book that it does not overshadow the main story of the grandmother. A beautiful book full of life, death, chaos and how both war and suicide effect families many years after the events themselves. Recommended.