THE EMPIRE OF THE SENSES
A sweeping, gorgeously written debut novel of duty to family and country, passion, and blood ties that unravel in the charged political climate of Berlin between the wars.
“A top-notch literary saga with a gripping plotline . . . Each perfectly crafted individual is fully involved in the surrounding world. In Landau’s hands, even a simple trip to the barber becomes meaningful and illustrative of the novel’s themes. The characters’ actions and thoughts are so three-dimensionally human that readers may forget they’re reading fiction.” —Booklist, starred review
“Landau’s debut is lush, smart, sexy, affecting, interesting, beautifully researched, and well made. Spending time in the world of this novel is an absolute pleasure.” —Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
“A gripping, beautifully written saga of an ordinary German family’s slow immersion into the simmering cauldron that is Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. Like most of us, the characters in this novel make choices determined by love and desire; their personal secrets and preoccupations often loom larger than the encroaching danger. Ultimately, their fates are determined as much by their passions as by history. As the novel builds toward its riveting conclusion, Landau explores how the unimaginable can become real—and in the process offers a fresh and moving perspective on a piece of history we thought we already knew.” —Christina Baker Kline, New York Times #1 best-selling author of Orphan Train
In THE EMPIRE OF THE SENSES Lev Pearlmutter, an assimilated, cultured German Jew, enlists to fight in World War I, leaving behind his gentile wife Josephine and their children, Franz and Vicki. Moving between Lev's and Josephine's viewpoints, Part I of the novel focuses on Lev's experiences on the Eastern Front—both in war and in love—which render his life at home a pale aftermath by comparison. Part II picks up in Berlin in 1927–1928: the Pearlmutter children, now young adults, grapple with their own questions: Franz, drawn into the Brown Shirt movement, struggling with his unexpressed homosexuality; and Vicki, seduced by jazz, bobbed hair, and falling in love with a young man who wants to take her to Palestine. Unlike most historical novels of this kind, The Empire of the Senses is not about the Holocaust but rather about the brew that led to it, and about why it was unimaginable to ordinary people like Lev and his wife. Plotted with meticulous precision and populated by characters who feel and dream to the fullest, it holds us rapt as cultural loss and ethnic hatred come to coexist with love, passion, and the power of the human spirit.