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Anastasia’s Book of Days
From the vestiges of the Holy Roman Empire in Europe to the creation of the nation we now know as Germany, the life of Anastasia Burkart reflects the momentous changes sweeping across her beloved Black Forest Homeland. In 1796 my great-great grandmother, Anastasia Burkart, was born in a small town in the beautiful Black Forest region of Germany. She lived a long life by the standards of her time, and died in 1873. Based on Anastasia's purported diaries, this historical novel presents her life story, turning a family genealogy into the flesh and bones of a real woman.
Maynard’s strong debut follows her courageous ancestor, Anastasia Burkart, a tailor’s apprentice and unwed mother whose diary provides an archival history of her life. Through soulful, elegant vignettes beginning in 1805, Maynard proceeds affectionately yet candidly through Anastasia’s remarkable life in Gruntal, a village in the lush, picturesque Black Forest of pre-unified, 19th-century Germany (she lived to see a unified Germany in 1871). Anastasia aspires to be a guild-recognized tailor like her father, but her gender restricts her to being his apprentice; however, her impressive needlework provides her with enough of a living until a competitor arrives in town. Anastasia has three children, two of whom survived, but is unlucky in romance—her first love, childhood friend Rupert, never returns from fighting with Napoleon’s army against Russia. Her love affair with clockmaker Matthias Kist ends badly; she later has a tryst with an unnamed huntsman. Luminous passages such as the beloved family ritual of choosing the Christmas tree from the snowy forest blend with Anastasia’s dark times during the deaths of her loved ones; the smallpox epidemic that scarred her sister, Francisca; financial struggles; conscription of the village’s boys for Napoleon’s wars; and her late-life loneliness and depression. Maynard’s vibrant novel captures both the joy and sadness in life. (BookLife)