Picks and Pans Review: The Prosperous Thief

updated 11/28/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/28/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Andrea Goldsmith

[STARS 3.5]

The sins and sorrows of parents are visited upon their children in Goldsmith's riveting fifth novel, which explores the Holocaust and its aftermath. Six-year-old Alice Lewin, daughter of a Jewish merchant, is spirited away from Germany before the war, but Alice's father loses his life to an excon who steals his papers and starts over in Australia as Henry Lewin. Fifty years later, Alice, living in San Francisco, visits "Henry" in Australia. Instead of a long-lost relative, she discovers the terrible truth. Goldsmith's fluid writing keeps the action moving at the pace of a whodunit, and apt details and metaphors (Alice's past is "thinner than a fingernail") dot her prose. Despite its over-the-top finale, this graceful effort shines as a study of the long shadow cast by the past—and the futility of the effort to capture that shadow.

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