For all of you who enjoy historical novels…
Author Germaine Shames’ Storytelling “Faultless”
You, Fascinating You, recently released by Pale Fire Press, has been honored by the Historical Novel Society as “Editor’s Choice,” a designation bestowed each quarter on a small number of books exemplifying the best in historical fiction.
You, Fascinating You is author Germaine Shames’ first historical novel. Her previous novel, Between Two Deserts, earned her the Literary Fellowship in Fiction from the Arizona Commission on the Arts.
Based on true events, You, Fascinating You tells the story of heroic Jewish ballerina Margit Wolf, who banished from the stage by Mussolini, inspired a timeless love song only to fade from history without a trace.
Historical Novel Society Review:
This biographical novel has a beautiful nostalgic quality, the sort of feeling you get when watching classic noir films, browsing vintage postcards or old photo albums of happy families that you know are doomed.
Ballerina Margit Wolf is just seventeen when she leaves Hungary for a short-lived career on the Italian stage. She eventually marries her “maestro,” composer Pasquale Frustaci. In 1938 Margit yearns to see her Jewish family again and travels home to Budapest with her son, Cesare. Shortly afterwards, her pining husband Pasquale gains international success with his song “Tu Solamente Tu” (“You, Fascinating You”).
Forcibly separated from Cesare and trapped behind closed borders, Margit suffers greatly, first at the hands of the Nazis, later the Russians. For twenty years she struggles to find a way to be reunited with Pasquale in Italy.
The author’s style is faultless and understated. You aren’t inflicted with clever historical research or lectures about the Holocaust or communism; there is no overt sentimentality. The truth is told in a few words, a look, a gesture. We bear witness to the tragedies of these real people with all their flaws and contradictions, but also to their resilience and hope. There are surprise cameos too from celebrities of the era: Vittorio de Sica, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Greta Garbo.
Why this excellent work wasn’t picked up by a major publisher is a mystery. (Despite the cliché about not judging covers, a more professional design might help to attract the wide audience it deserves.)
For anyone unfamiliar with the aftermath of World War II in Europe or simply in search of a human story well told, this is most highly recommended.
In the final weeks of 1938, in the shadow of Kristallnacht and imminent war, a heartsick Italian maestro wrote a love song called “Tu Solamente Tu.”
Its lyrics lamented his forced separation from his wife, the Hungarian ballerina Margit Wolf, in the wake of Mussolini’s edict banishing foreign Jews from Italy. The song, first recorded by Vittorio de Sica in 1939, catapulted to the top of the Hit Parade and earned its composer the moniker “the Italian Cole Porter.” The German version, “Du Immer Wieder Du,” would be performed by Zarah Leander, the foremost film star of the German Reich, and its English counterpart, “You, Fascinating You,” by the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band.
Twenty-two years would pass before the maestro and his ballerina again met face-to-face.
You, Fascinating You begins as a backstage romance and ends as an epic triumph of the human spirit.
The Author: Germaine Shames scours the globe in search of compelling stories. Shames is author of Between Two Deserts, two earlier nonfiction books, and three feature screenplays. A former foreign correspondent and contributor to Hemispheres, More, and National Geographic Traveler, she has lived and worked in such diverse locations as the Australian outback, Swiss Alps, interior of Bulgaria, coast of Colombia, Fiji Islands, and Gaza Strip. With You, Fascinating You the author returns to her roots in the performing arts to reveal a hidden story painstakingly researched across three countries over the course of five years.