Künstlers in Paradise (Paperback)

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Künstlers in Paradise By Cathleen Schine Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

In 1939, the Künstler family, a modernist composer and an upcoming actor, the grandfather and their young daughter Mamie, are able to leave Vienna and cross the ocean on the last voyage of the Ile de France to become part of the (often but not always Jewish) émigré community in Los Angeles, including Greta Garbo and composer Arnold Schoenberg. Just over eighty years later, Mamie is exiled again during the COVID lockdown, with only her grandson Julian and her housekeeper Agatha for company. For Mamie, this is an opportunity to take stock of her past, pass some of her stories down, and reveal some carefully hidden secrets. For Julian, it’s the chance to find meaning in his own life. And for readers, Kunstlers in Paradise is a witty, wise, and moving story with an intergenerational friendship at its core.  

— Daniel Goldin


There was a time when the family Künstler lived in the fairy-tale city of Vienna. Circumstances transformed the fairy tale into a nightmare, and in 1939 the Künstlers found their way out of Vienna and into a new fairy tale: Los Angeles, California, United States of America.

For years Mamie Künstler, ninety-three years old, as clever and glamorous as ever, has lived happily in her bungalow in Venice, California, with her inscrutable housekeeper and her gigantic St. Bernard. Their tranquility is upended when Mamie’s grandson Julian arrives from New York City. Like many a twentysomething, he has come to seek his fortune in Hollywood. But it is 2020, the global pandemic sweeps in, and Julian’s short visit suddenly has no end in sight.

Mamie was only eleven when the Künstlers escaped Vienna in 1939. They made their way, stunned and overwhelmed, to sunny, surreal Los Angeles, where they joined a colony of distinguished Jewish musicians, writers, and intellectuals also escaping Hitler. Now, faced with months of lockdown and a willing listener, Mamie begins to tell Julian the buried stories of her years in Los Angeles: her escapades with eminent émigrés like Arnold Schoenberg, Christopher Isherwood, Thomas Mann. Oh, and Greta Garbo. While the pandemic cuts Julian off from the life he knows, Mamie’s tales open up a world of lives that came before him. They reveal to him just how much the past holds of the future.

About the Author

Cathleen Schine is the author of The Grammarians, The Three Weissmanns of Westport, and The Love Letter, among other novels. She has contributed to the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books, the New York Times Magazine, and the New York Times Book Review. She lives in Los Angeles.

Praise For…

A People Magazine Book of the Week
An NPR Best Book of the Year

"A moving and entertaining novel about how we revisit memories to make meaning for ourselves and others. . . . Ms. Schine has a wonderful ability to weave research and substantive ideas into her novels without weighing them down. Her buoyant dialogue has the zip of great comedy routines."
Wall Street Journal

"Schine’s delight in language is contagious—she offers up words like baubles, turning them this way and that to catch the light. . . . A paean to the regenerative power of storytelling and to Los Angeles itself."
Kim Hubbard, New York Times Book Review

"Künstlers in Paradise is a tender family story, but it is also a profound meditation on the nature and power of storytelling, inheritance, and legacy, the malleability and perdurability of memory."
Boston Globe

"Dreamy, drifty, and droll, studded with lush botanical description and historical gems. Schine’s many fans will enjoy."
Kirkus Reviews

"Reading like a cross between Leopoldstadt and Down and Out in Beverly Hills, this does the trick as an emotionally resonant meditation on family, memory, and the need for stories."
Publishers Weekly

"Few authors could pull off what Cathleen Schine does in Künstlers in Paradise: creating a seamless, multilayered saga about family dynamics and relationships, immigration, the early days of Hollywood and the often disturbingly cyclical nature of history. . . . Künstlers in Paradise is truly a trove of unexpected rewards."
BookPage, Starred Review

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250892492
ISBN-10: 125089249X
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks
Publication Date: March 12th, 2024
Pages: 272
Language: English