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INVISIBLE INK a family memoir
Martha Leigh, author
Stories about my Jewish parents and wider family from my vast archive of letters and writings.My mother was a concert pianist from Central Europe and my father grew up in poverty the East End of London. He was also gay. They met in Paris in 1937 and corresponded for the 6 years of World War II. Several family members had miraculous escapes from the Nazis in Europe. After the war my father became the world expert on Jean-Jacques Rousseau and professor of French at Cambridge University. My uncle, a doctor worked in the French Resistance and became the pioneer of modern anaesthetics in France. I reflect on the impact of the war on my parents, what it was like for the family living with a gay man, and my feelings about discovering my Jewishness.
Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 7 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 8.75 out of 10


Plot/Idea: Leigh has written an incredible historical and familial account of the interconnected experiences of her family throughout the years leading up to, including, and directly following World War II. Intertwining the lives of her relatives, she has presented a piece of living history that breathes to life hundreds of letters, books, and other forms of prose written during that time by her family members. This book not only explores the delicate ties between family, but also the experience of unrequited love, coping with homosexuality during a time it was at best considered a mental illness, along with anti-semitism, and trying to survive one of the most difficult times in history. Written with honestly, love, and a desire to reveal even ugly truths, Leigh has cemented her family's important and fascinating history through this literary gem.

Prose: Where Leigh excels is in her descriptions of feeling, especially regarding Edith's relationship with the piano. She also brings to life Ralph, a lovable, depressed, pained cynic who is trying to accept his gay identity. These two characters carry the work. The others could be more fleshed out, as the chapters devoted to them can feel more like sidebars that are distracting the reader from the main story. Sometimes the prose can be a bit confusing, and the reader may get lost at certain plot points, as there are so many locations, dates, people, and events to keep track of throughout. Overall, it is very pleasant to read and Leigh is an excellent storyteller.

Originality: Leigh has successfully taken on the daunting task of sifting through countless pieces of writing to formulate this story. She has done a wonderful job of formulating a coherent narrative from snippets of history, glueing it together with historical context. Although Holocaust narratives are not uncommon, Leigh's rings with a special uniqueness due not only to how the story came about through letters and manuscripts, but also the contents therein. Exploring an unlikely love affair between a gay man and a female pianist, Leigh looks into the confusion of love, survival, and family with an objective, gentle, and honest eye.

Character Development/Execution: Occasionally, it can be easy to get lost in the various stories, and perhaps this could be made clearer by having little summaries throughout, or more of a road map present. Also, if possible, pictures would make the book come to life even more. The reader would love to see these characters in which they have become so invested!

Date Submitted: January 11, 2022