Publication Date: Apr 17, 2012
List Price US $17.95
List Price US $27.95
List Price US $16.99
On a pier in Marseille in 1942, with desperate refugees pressing to board one of the last ships to escape France before the Nazis choked off its ports, an 18-year-old German Jewish girl was pried from the arms of the Catholic Frenchman she loved and promised to marry. As the Lipari carried Janine and her family to Casablanca on the first leg of a perilous journey to safety in Cuba, she would read through her tears the farewell letter that Roland had slipped in her pocket: “Whatever the length of our separation, our love will survive it, because it depends on us alone. I give you my vow that whatever the time we must wait, you will be my wife. Never forget, never doubt.”
Five years later—her fierce desire to reunite with Roland first obstructed by war and then, in secret, by her father and brother—Janine would build a new life in New York with a dynamic American husband. That his obsession with Ayn Rand tormented their marriage was just one of the reasons she never ceased yearning to reclaim her lost love.
Investigative reporter Leslie Maitland grew up enthralled by her mother’s accounts of forbidden romance and harrowing flight from the Nazis. Her book is both a journalist’s vivid depiction of a world at war and a daughter’s pursuit of a haunting question: what had become of the handsome Frenchman whose picture her mother continued to treasure almost fifty years after they parted? It is a tale of memory that reporting made real and a story of undying love that crosses the borders of time.
Excerpt from Crossing the Borders of Time
During the fall that my father was dying, I went back to Europe and found myself seeking my mother’s lost love. I say I went back almost as if the world my mother had fled and the dream she abandoned had also been mine, because I had grown to share the myth of her life. Perhaps it is common for children whose parents survived the Nazi regime to identify with them, to assume a duty to make their lives better. As my mother’s handmaiden and avid disciple in an oral tradition, I felt possessed by a history never my own. Still, not as yoked as she was to life’s compromises, I would prove more prepared to retrace the past and use it to forge a new future for her.
Time was running out on the present, and while my father grew weak in a lonely cave of silent bravado, it pained me to realize he would not even leave us the words that we needed. No deathbed regrets, explanations, or tears. An emotional bandit, he would soon slip away under shadow of night, wearing his boots and his mask.
When work as a journalist compelled me to leave New York for a week that October, I was anguished to lose precious time at Dad’s side. Yet how fast he would fade I failed to imagine. Nor could I foresee the course of my journey: that an impetuous detour to France from reporting in Germany would send me in search of Roland Arcieri—the man my mother had loved and lost and mourned all her life. Dreading my father’s imminent death and the void he would leave, I took a blind leap of faith into the past, dragging my mother behind me.
This is how one Sunday morning in 1990 I came to be visiting Mulhouse, a provincial French city just twelve miles from Germany’s Rhine River border. With cousins in town, I had visited Mulhouse twice years before. But on this crisp autumn day I was drawn toward a new destination: a fourteen-story, concrete and blue brick building whose boxy design represented what passed too often for modern in Europe. Although there was nothing about this unexceptional structure on a street densely shaded by chestnut trees to attract an American tourist, I instantly sensed that this was the place I needed to find. I stood at the spot—the X on a map to a treasure buried by time—torn by contradictory feelings. I ran a very real risk of discovering something better left hidden, yet I could not understand or forgive my failure to look here before.
An ache of remorse for all the lost years mingled with nervous excitement. Just up the stairs, I would finally learn what I had always wanted to know. Who was Roland? Where was Roland? What had happened to him in the near fifty years since the cruelties of war had stolen the girl he wanted to marry? I yearned to find my mother’s grand passion. Love for the dark-eyed Frenchman, whose picture she always kept tucked in her wallet, continued to pulse in her memory, the heartbeat that kept her alive.
“One of those sweeping, epic, romantic novels that seems tailor-made for the Oscars and a long summer afternoon. Except it’s real! Leslie Maitland has the rare ability to bring history, adventure, and love alive.” —Bruce Feiler, New York Times best-selling author of Walking the Bible and Abraham
“How the small flame of an undying love can illuminate the darkness of a tragic era. This elegantly told story is for everyone.” —James Carroll, New York Times best-selling author of Jerusalem, Jerusalem and Constantine’s Sword
“Not only original social history of a high order, but one of the most poignant love-lost, love-found stories I have ever read, with an ending that Hollywood wouldn’t dare.” —Robert MacNeil, Journalist-author
“Maitland is a brilliant reporter who knows what questions to ask and how to get her story. Written with the precision of a historian, the result is a work I could not put down and scarcely wanted to end.” —Michael Berenbaum, former director of the Holocaust Research Institute at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
“A love affair thwarted by war, distance and a disapproving family became the defining story of Leslie Maitland’s mother’s life, and by extension, her own. What happens next is surprising indeed.” —Cokie Roberts, NPR and ABC News analyst and author.
“A poignantly rendered, impeccably researched tale of a rupture healed by time.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This is a worthy testament to how war and displacement conspire against personal happiness.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“Maitland’s personal account of her family is a major contribution to history interlaced with a lovely love story.” —Arts and Leisure News
“This is a fascinating story of thwarted love, longing, and the travails of one woman and one family within the broader context of war and persecution. Maitland includes a treasury of old family photographs and documents to enhance this incredible story of the gauzy intersection of memory and fact.” —Vanessa Bush, Booklist (starred review)
“[Maitland] writes with a clear, candid journalist’s eye and manages to remove herself from the story, yet place herself into the narrative at the same time. [She] writes…with insight and honesty. She closes this noteworthy read with poetic understanding and gentleness.” —Jewish Book Council
“Schindler’s List meets Casablanca in this tale of a daughter’s epic search for her mother’s prewar beau-50 years later.” —Good Housekeeping
“[A] gripping account of undying love-a tale of memory that reporting made real.” —Town & Country
“Crossing the Borders of Time is more beautiful than a novel because of the power of its true story and the richness with which it is told.” —Neal Gendler, The American Jewish World
“A gripping true-life tale of victims of Nazi persecution and one survivor’s quest for her lost love.” —Shelf Awareness
“Sometimes the truth is not “stranger than fiction” but more compelling than fiction, and that’s the case here. Any reader who likes exciting World War II drama and a good love story will be drawn to this book. Well written and captivating, its story will stay with readers well after the book is finished.” —Library Journal
“An absorbing true account of romance, resilience, and survival during the years leading up to and during World War II, set against the backdrop of the Holocaust and the harrowing social history of mid-20th-century France.” —The Daily Beast
“Crossing the Borders of Time will bewitch you. There is no fictionalized account of long-lost love that could be as compelling as this valentine to Leslie Maitland’s parents and the sad situations that threatened to ruin their moral compasses throughout their entire lives. Simply put, this is an unforgettable tale.” —Book Reporter
“Crossing the Borders of Time is a hair-raising tale of escape and survival, where crossing a border means everything. But sometimes, in this complicated world of loss, change and missed opportunities, it is just as amazing that love can make it across the biggest border of all: the border of time. Highly recommended.” —American Girls Art Club in Paris
“The author makes fine use of her journalistic skills to conduct the search and to write about it, producing a narrative that is both informative and electrifying. History and the family saga combine in an informative and heart-warming tale that grips the reader’s attention.” —Indianapolis Jewish Post & Opinion
1. What was the impetus that began Leslie Maitland’s search for her mother’s long lost lover? Do you have any unanswered questions about your family’s past?
2. How are Roland and Leonard different from each other, and how does Janine’s memory of Roland affect her relationship with her husband? Do you think she shared too much information with her husband and her children about her romantic past? Were Leonard’s infidelities a reflection of his character or the mores of the times; or were they a bid for attention from Janine, or even an effort to retaliate for Roland’s persistent shadow in their marriage?
3. Crossing the Borders of Time is deeply rooted in WWII history and the Holocaust. How does Leslie Maitland use Janine’s story to reflect the differing attitudes toward the rise of Nazism, anti-Semitism, and various other prejudices? Did you learn anything about WWII history that you didn’t know before?
4. In 1989, the Maitland family returned to Freiburg, where Jewish former citizens were invited to return to their birthplace. What do you think about this attempt at reconciliation or atonement? What did you think of their encounters on this and later trips with figures from the family’s past?
5. How does Leslie Maitland’s background as a New York Times investigative reporter help her tell this story? Do you think a reporter is better equipped than a novelist to write this kind of book?
6. After fleeing France, the Günzburger family was exiled and displaced in Cuba, before eventually gaining entry into the United States. How is this similar or different from other Jewish refugee stories that you’ve heard? Were you surprised to learn that the United States accepted so few refugees from Hitler-dominated Europe and that Leonard felt obliged to change his last name in response to anti-Semitism in American business circles?
7. What did you think of Janine’s relationship with her family – of her obedient decision to remain in New York after the war rather than return to France, and of her silent acceptance of Sigmar’s and Norbert’s efforts to thwart her marrying Roland?
8. Roland and Janine were separated and reunited through a mixture of historical and personal forces. How do you think their separation altered their perceptions of each other, and of love in general? How did you react to the difficult compromises that they made at the ending? What solution to their situation would you have advised for them?