A Fifty-Year Silence

  • by Miranda Richmond Mouillot
  • Narrated by Miranda Richmond Mouillot
  • 9 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A young woman moves across an ocean to uncover the truth about her grandparents' mysterious estrangement and pieces together the extraordinary story of their wartime experiences
In 1948, after surviving World War II by escaping Nazi-occupied France for refugee camps in Switzerland, the author's grandparents, Anna and Armand, bought an old stone house in a remote, picturesque village in the South of France. Five years later, Anna packed her bags and walked out on Armand, taking the typewriter and their children. Aside from one brief encounter, the two never saw or spoke to each other again, never remarried, and never revealed what had divided them forever.
A Fifty-Year Silence is the deeply involving account of Miranda Richmond Mouillot's journey to find out what happened between her grandmother, a physician, and her grandfather, an interpreter at the Nuremberg Trials, who refused to utter his wife's name aloud after she left him. To discover the roots of their embittered and entrenched silence, Miranda abandons her plans for the future and moves to their stone house, now a crumbling ruin; immerses herself in letters, archival materials, and secondary sources; and teases stories out of her reticent, and declining, grandparents. As she reconstructs how Anna and Armand braved overwhelming odds and how the knowledge her grandfather acquired at Nuremberg destroyed their relationship, Miranda wrestles with the legacy of trauma, the burden of history, and the complexities of memory. She also finds herself learning how not only to survive but to thrive - making a home in the village and falling in love.
With warmth, humor, and rich, evocative details that bring her grandparents' outsize characters and their daily struggles vividly to life, A Fifty-Year Silence is a heartbreaking, uplifting love story spanning two continents and three generations.

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What the Critics Say

"Charming, understated… A wonderful evocation of the way that the Holocaust has haunted many generations." (Publishers Weekly)
"A moving family history researched with dedication and completed with a granddaughter's love." (Kirkus Reviews)
"A Fifty-Year Silence is one of those exceedingly rare books that touches you deep down - page by page - through the rawness of its story and its sheer insight. The extraordinary quality of the prose, the elegance of the storytelling, and the genius with which Miranda Richmond Mouillot has laid down the twists and turns make this a book to treasure. It is a memoir that sings to us all." (Tahir Shah, author of The Caliph's House)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Oh, how I loved this story..

What did you love best about A Fifty-Year Silence?

This brilliant author could have made this so morose. It is serious history and most of these books are horrible memoirs of man's inhumanity. But she gave this book a life or several lives of it's own. She intrigues you with the mystery then intermingles it with her life and the growth of relationship. My great grandmother had the same essence as her grandmother, oh, the flood of memories I experienced. This book has good writing, heart, hurt, love, change, mystery, and love. I have listened to it twice. Yes there were very sad parts but the hand of destiny gives that magical and tempers the things we can roll with or bury our feet in cement.


What was one of the most memorable moments of A Fifty-Year Silence?

When she tried to tell her grandmother how she felt about her and the reaction of her grandmother could have been perceived with pain, hurt but it is shown to be the way she says, "I know, I know, lighten up,". That is not exactly it but maybe you get it. My great grandmother would have reacted exactly like that and I adored her. She and I were connected. Maybe that is the theme here. Her grandfather and her found that relationship that could of just as easily not happened. Awe but the grandmother just seems to see a little further down the road than the rest of us. Beautiful.


Which scene was your favorite?

Oh, I see this entire book as a scene. But the finding of the photo of her grandparents stands out. Amazing what we can see in a moment captured.


If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

What is a tag line? The title would work, this is real, while the time in history is not happening now. there is always a place in world in which there is war and terror and certainly we are at no lack of family difficulties.


Any additional comments?

Thank you so much. This book was a meteor in my head, touch my heart, and is now a part of me forever. I love it. Thank you
*The author's narration was beautiful also, her voice is a teaser though. I felt I had heard it before. Reminded me of young Ellen Burstyn.

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- L.W.

So what happened?

This is the true story of what happened to the author's maternal grandparents, who were Holocaust survivors, who got married, bought a house, had two children, and who then didn't talk again. Thus the title, A Fifty-Year Silence. Anna, the grandmother, had a joyous outlook on life till the day she died, and who called the war (WWII) "her instruction book on life". Armand, the grandfather, hated the cards life had dealt him and became a mean-spirited atheist, although it was obvious he loved Miranda, his granddaughter. I greatly enjoyed this book, about love and loss, about how love can be so precarious and easily crushed when trampled. It was the story of a journey, a how-did-this-happen? expedition. You'll have to read it yourself to find out if there's a tidy answer or a sense of "Ah, I understand".
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- Connie

Book Details

  • Release Date: 01-20-2015
  • Publisher: Random House Audio