Told through the portrait of Wally Neuzil painted by her lover Egon Schiele, this is a memoir and fable on the Jewish diaspora, loss and rebirth, the Holocaust and Jewish experience in the 20th century Wally's doomed relationship with Schiele ended in him deciding to 'marry well', and her death from scarlet fever in 1917, but not before she inspired all his erotic fantasies that were to be immortalised in his art. This is only the beginning of Vaux's glorious, multi-layered book. Between the wars, Schiele's portrait of Wally decorated the drawing room wall of Lea Bondi Jaray, collector and owner of the first contemporary art gallery in Vienna. Her rich, sophisticated, liberal society was subsequently annihilated by the Nazis, and her prized painting removed. The last part of the story brings Wally by Schiele into her present location in a FBI vault, becoming a test case for hundreds of Jewish families to regain their art and possessions. Vaux's story turns to Jaray's family who claim her as theirs, and whose lives swirl around Wally and become emblematic of the Jewish experience in the last 75 years. It is here that the book turns to memoir, and intricately tells the important tale of the legacy of the Jewish experience and the still unresolved results of Nazism.
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Anna Vaux works on the Times Literary Supplement, and has written for the Evening Standard, Guardian, Daily Telegraph and London Review of Books. She has also made several features for BBC Radio 4.
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