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In My Mother's House
by Margaret McMullan

Published: 2004
Paperback : 272 pages
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In My Mother's House is a beautiful, haunting, and expertly told novel about a daughter’s obsession to understand her mother’s commitment to silence about their family’s experiences during WWII Vienna. The story of Elizabeth and her mother Jenny is remarkable for its fullness of ...
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Introduction

In My Mother's House is a beautiful, haunting, and expertly told novel about a daughter’s obsession to understand her mother’s commitment to silence about their family’s experiences during WWII Vienna. The story of Elizabeth and her mother Jenny is remarkable for its fullness of details: the pieces of family silver the grandmother mails to Jenny, piece by piece, over the years; Jenny’s vivid memories of her uncle’s viola d’amore lessons; the smell of the wood floors in the family's Vienna home. It's an emotional story of what is inherited from one generation to the next.

"Graceful...The global catastrophe of the Nazi era we know about. It is the individual, private pain it caused that is skillfully given voice here by Margaret McMullan." --The Boston Globe

"The two narrative threads blend into one harmonious story, proving that while we can leave a country, we can't escape our history." --Entertainment Weekly

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Excerpt

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Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions:

1. The story is told in alternating points of view. Why do you think the author made this decision? What do you learn about the different views of mother and daughter?

2. Are there parts of Jenny's life that Elizabeth will never understand? Are there parts of Elizabeth's life that Jenny will never understand? How might mothers and daughters live then and continue to relate with one another?

3. Jenny keeps her emigration and family stories a mystery for most of Elizabeth's life. What is the reason for all the mystery? Can you understand such secrets? Do you think it's fair for Elizabeth to insist that her mother "tell all"?

4. Why does Elizabeth travel all the way to Vienna? What does she find out when she finally gets to her mother's country, city, street, and house? Why do you think the novel is called "In My Mother's House"?

5. Why is the relationship between Jenny and her new step-mother, Isabella so strained? What does Elizabeth think about Isabella? How does she "play" her?

6. On page 231, Elizabeth thinks, "Hitler didn't lose the war...He got so much of what he wanted. Too much." Explain why she might think such a thing. Consider how she might be mistaken.

7. What is Elizabeth's view of present-day Vienna? Compare this view to Jenny's memory of Vienna. How has it changed? How has it stayed the same? Consider the character of Henrich and all that he might represent as well.

8. How does Jenny's loss of vision help her in the end?
What role does music play in Jenny's life and in Elizabeth's? Are the roles similar?

9. What is the future for these women and this family?
What does Judaism offer Elizabeth that she doesn't find in Catholicism?

10. How do these women resolve their conflict in the end - or do they?

11. What is the value of assimilation for Jenny? What are the dangers of it in Elizabeth's opinion?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

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Member Reviews

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  "Book was very long and did not hold my attention"by Wits-End (see profile) 10/20/05

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