To start with, I shelve this book under the category of books to be never read again. And that is not because I hated this book or this book is an utterly boring or worthless read. On the contrary, this is a book that everyone should read at least once in their lifetime, just that they should not revisit it again. Why then did I say that I will never read it again?
From the elegant yet pathetic life that Kassandra led to the little kid that grew up with a fleetingly appearing mother to the pathetic yet fulfilling life led by that kid in her future, after crossing all travails, will move the reader from ecstasy to despair, finally terminating in joy. The horrors fictionally experienced by Ariana during the Nazi reign moved me to heart-rending tears that I had to keep the book away for some time, to gather my composure. This is precisely the reason.
All of us complain of our life being monotonous and boring and mired in a lot of problems, part true and part not. If we, for a moment, step into Ariana’s or of any other Jew’s shoes during that era, we would instantly feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the easy life bestowed on us.
The story is beautifully spun. Kasandra was not allowed to lead the life she desired, and finally ended paying for it with suicide, when she did so. Her daughter Ariana, slowly acquainted with the cruelty of Nazis by her wise father, learns to tread carefully even under intense interrogation by the Nazi soldiers of her father’s whereabouts. Like an oasis in the desert, the Nazi officer Manfred takes pity on Ariana and they get married. Manfred’s expected death during the Fall shakes Ariana terribly and finally through extended contacts and hard treks, she reaches the States to be eventually taken pity by the Liebmans’. I quite did not like the part where she chose to be disloyal to them, though I understand her reasons. As the plot neared its climax, I was very sure that Gerhard would appear. I would have liked Tamara to present Gerhard to Ariana, in some extended relation, instead of the ring paving way for recognition. But I suppose that is the whole point of the novel being named as ‘The Ring’, isn’t it?