It could be a fairy tale: Beatrice, a simple Irish girl with a cold, mean mother, is swept up by a glamorous countess and whisked off to live with a rich and kindly family in a house full of exquisite things. Then reality kicks in. This is Berlin. In 1938. Even as Beatrice arrives, the Nymphenburg porcelains and ivory turnings are being packed up. The Reich has appropriated the house, along with most of the servants, and the owners are decamping with 23 wagonloads of treasures to their rural estate—the first in a series of retreats that will eventually lead to hiding out in their own woods. What unfolds in Susanna Moore’s novel The Life of Objects (Knopf) is an unsparing look at a country’s disintegration: Rumors fly, radio stations go silent, friends disappear, concentration camps proliferate, bombs fall, and the Russians arrive to kick off some of the most brutal scenes in the book. Objects, it turns out, can enchant, enslave and corrupt, but they can’t always protect us.
Want MORE? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.