These include a British policeman, a Syrian antiquities dealer, the geneticist JBS Haldane, “who cured tetanus and fought Franco,” and—most curiously, especially since Dorle was an Orthodox Jew—a married American reporter, John Carter, who was “deputized by Goering to start a ‘Hitlerist’ party to run in the 1932 election.” That revelation stuns Winner; this book is, in many ways, his search for answers. Winner’s account stands out for its honest, searching depiction of the protagonist and her family, including Winner himself. His assiduous research, his determination to get to the bottom of things, and his fascination for the past make an intimate page-turner of a work of investigative portraiture.
Winner deftly conjures Dorle, the people she interacted with, and the world she lived in. Apart from Haldane, the most interesting person is Carter, who comes across as a political opportunist as Winner finds himself unable to definitively untangle the man’s true beliefs and loyalties—and what Dorle knew of his sympathies. With consummate skill he builds a seamless narrative, blending Dorle’s love letters and his own research, filling the gaps by relying on his imagination. The result is an engrossing story about the life and times of a singular woman who lived life to the fullest.
Takeaway: Fascinating “fictional memoir” of a trailblazing great aunt and her mysteries.
Comparable Titles: Heidi Ardizzone’s An Illuminated Life, Annie Ernaux ‘s A Woman’s Story.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A