The Double Life of Lilianeby Lily Tuck
“A brilliant blend of fact and fiction. An entirely engrossing novel that draws upon Lily Tuck’s amazing personal history. A triumph of artistry and storytelling.” —Diane Johnson
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“Tuck is a genius.” —Los Angeles Book Review
Lily Tuck has had a wonderful and accomplished career as a National Book Award–winning novelist, storywriter, essayist, and biographer. She is one of our most distinguished contributors to American literature. With The Double Life of Liliane, Tuck writes what may well be her crowning achievement to date, and, significantly too, her most autobiographical work. As the child of a German movie producer father who lives in Italy and a beautiful, artistically talented mother who resides in New York, Liliane’s life is divided between those two very different worlds. A shy and observant only child with a vivid imagination, Liliane uncovers the stories of family members as diverse as Moses Mendelssohn, Mary Queen of Scots, and an early Mexican adventurer, and pieces together their vivid histories, through both World Wars and across continents.
What unfolds is an astonishing and riveting meta-narrative: an exploration of self, humanity, and family in the manner of W. G. Sebald and Karl Ove Knausgaard. Told with Tuck’s inimitable elegance and peppered with documents, photos, and a rich and varied array of characters, The Double Life of Liliane is a bold, intimate, and inventive coming-of-age portrait of the writer as a young woman.
“Mixing family lore, historical events, and photographs, this autobiographical novel creates a portrait of the writer as a young woman…enlivening.” —New Yorker
“Compels the reader to appreciate bare-bones storytelling and minimalist scenes over warts-and-all portraiture and barnstorming set-pieces. Thoughts and deeds matter to Tuck, only the former are stunted and the latter elliptical, and it is up to us to make sense of them. ‘I hope my readers will read my work with imagination,’ Tuck said in a recent New York Times piece. For her work to pay dividends, there is no other way to read her . . . Tuck expertly fuses world history and four-generation family history, fact and fiction. She utilizes photographs, letters, and poetry and engages with and reflects on war, memory, and humanity. . . W.G. Sebald looms large over the page…What could have been a messy hodgepodge is instead a graceful ripple-effect, like watching a skimmed stone spawn one neat circle after another, only without any diminishment in size or force…After a fashion we stop questioning how much of what we are reading is memoir and how much of it isn’t, and simply surrender to the elegant, limpid prose of this, the most beguiling work of Lily Tuck’s career.” —Malcolm Forbes, The Millions
“Intriguing and intelligent . . . Tuck simultaneously creates a layered portrait of a family and the historical eras it lived through and questions the possibility of definitively capturing or summing up human lives . . . a high-wire act . . . exciting in its sweep, ambition, and conceptual intricacy.” —Priscilla Gilman, Boston Globe
“A mosaic of storytelling that is both poetic and absorbing . . . Tuck builds her story through compression, intensity and sometimes disorienting side trips. . . This recovery of fragments, for this author, involves a near alchemical process: Tuck inhabits the spacious realm of the imagination, shifting time zones and historic periods effortlessly, weaving memories and photographs, family stories and facts, as Liliane’s mesmerizing portrait emerges.” —Jane Ciabattari, NPR.com
“An evocative blend of memoir, history and fiction . . . On the surface, one might expect that the book’s title refers to Liliane’s feeling of being split in two by virtue of spending two very different childhoods, one with her father in Italy and one with her mother in New York and Maine. But again, that pivotal course with Paul de Man, which culminates the book, hints at a different meaning for the title, referring to ‘the writing ‘I’ and the written ‘I’.’ Is the writer identical to her subject? Or, by virtue of narrating her experience and everything that ripples out from it, is she creating a different version of herself? These kinds of provocative questions will preoccupy readers both while they immerse themselves in Liliane’s story and long afterwards.” —Bookreporter.com
“[An}exquisitely crafted narrative collage.” —Jane Ciabattari, BBC.com “Ten Books to read in September”
“Playful, buoyant prose and poignant scenes . . . that quicken the heart . . . In Tuck’s prose—lively, dizzy, happy—one gets a contagious sense of fun that she has transmuting life into words.” —Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review)
“Special, provocative, unusual.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Beautiful and wildly intelligent.” —Margot Livesey
“With fierce elegance, Lily Tuck boldly dismantles genre boundaries while weaving a seamless narrative from the fragments of her early life. Tuck crosses her physical terrain with candor and psychological acuity. Fact, fiction, memoir, novel, prose, poetry—I’ve never read anything like it. An achingly intelligent work that is, in the words of Liliane’s professor Paul de Man, ‘an act of self-restoration.’” —Jamie Quatro
“A triumph of artistry and storytelling. An entirely engrossing novel that draws upon Lily Tuck’s amazing personal history. A brilliant blend of fact and fiction.” —Diane Johnson
In the living room, the blue velvet sofa, the green glass coffee table, the two matching stuffed chairs and her father’s ornate mahogany desk are all new. Except for a large Venetian glass ashtray on top of the coffee table–her father smokes a pack of cigarettes a day, Chesterfields he buys on the black market—there are no books or magazines or other objects to give the room a lived-in look. The only personal object in the room is the statue of a lion that sits on her father’s desk. It is the Golden Laurel Award he received at the Venice Film Festival in 1950 for a film called Donne senza Nome (Women without Names) starring Simone Simon and Francoise Rosay and set after World War II, in a displaced persons’ camp, where the lives and freedom of three women and a newborn child are at stake. The actresses playing the women detainees speak in many different languages—Italian, English, French, Serbo-Croatian and German—depending on their nationalities and the film’s location.
Scenes were shot in Puglia, in the town of Alberobello, famous for its distinctive houses with cone-shaped stone roofs. A few years later, Rudy will put a framed photo of Liliane next to the statue of the lion. The photo—a photo she does not like (it looks posed and her hair at the time is too short)—was taken by a well-known photographer, who was both a friend of her father and of Marilyn Monroe.