EW Staff
January 12, 2001 AT 05:00 AM EST

A DESERT IN BOHEMIA Jill Paton Walsh (St. Martin’s, $23.95) The personal and political blend into a novel of unusual intelligence and grace depicting the effect of 50 years of communism on two families in Comenia, a fictional neighbor of Czechoslovakia that’s annexed by Russia in 1945. As history marches forward through the Cold War, 1968’s ”Prague spring” and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Walsh builds a gorgeously constructed narrative in which reconciliation — between a mother and her abandoned child; between an aristocratic family and its Nazi past; between those who escaped, those who fought, and those who capitulated — is won only at great and complicated cost. Amazingly, Walsh never falls prey either to the sketchy characterization that mars most historical novels or to the by-the-numbers view of history that weakens so many multigenerational narratives. Instead, she comes up with an accomplished, wrenching, and wholly original work. A-

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