Meriel Schindler (2021)

A vivd memoir of pre-war Central Europe and the café culture that so much defined it (and still does). The Schindlers of the title are not the now-more-famous branch of the family, but they attained centrality by their catering and social status centred around their Innsbruch café.

This is both a family history and a broader social treatment of how confused and interwoven the various stories from that period and location can be. Schindler starts on her quest to understand her own family after the death of her awkward and domineering father leaves her with access to tantalising clues as to his own involvement in the events, as well as her memories of her refugee relatives, their allusions to their previous eminence, and her own childhood memories of running from her father’s creditors. In the process she uncovers the ways in which Jews integrated into Austrian society – and were then expelled and victimised, amid much confusion, when the political tide turned.

The inclusion of recipes in the back of the book is just a joyful addition to an already quite fascinating tale.

4/5. Finished Monday 19 June, 2023.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)