BOOK REVIEWS for THE ICE PALACE WALTZ by BARBARA BAER
From LibraryThing –
The Ice Palace Waltz by Barbara L. Baer is a well-written, interesting book that spanned generations of German Jewish families who had emigrated to the United States. There were four parts to the book beginning in Leadville, CO in the late 1800s, moving to New York City in the early 1900s and then to CA and Europe during World War II. There was a wealth of detail which made each location very real. There was an excellent set of family trees in the front of the book which made keeping the characters straight fairly easy. I enjoyed the book which was based on the author’s family history and felt I learned a lot about the time period.
From Intermountain Jewish News, April 3rd, 2020
by Chris Leppek
THE GILDED AGE
A very Jewish romance in Leadville and New York
For Colorado Jews, what’s not to love about this novel? Its initial setting is Leadville, circa 1889, the height of the Cloud City’s boomtown days with all the raucous, rough-and-tumble, elegant and eccentric color of that time and place. Virtually all of its important characters are Jewish, members of immigrant families, not surprisingly, and of various levels of means.
The author focuses on two Leadville Jewish families specifically, of different backgrounds, who are at odds with each other but whose offspring — shades of Romeo and Juliet — fall in love.
Baer does not keep her story in Leadville for very long but while she’s there the local color is fascinating. We get glimpses of the fabled Tabor clan and striking views of Temple Israel — Leadville’s now restored synagogue — in its heyday. An important role is given to the Guggenheim family,Jews who began their financial empire when silver was king in Colorado. There is even a disturbing episode with a violent
member of the infamous James Gang.
One of Leadville’s most famous tourist attractions in those bygone days, the beautiful Ice Palace, serves as a picturesque backdrop for the story’s romantic storyline, hence the title. While romance is certainly an important part of Baer’s storyline, The Ice Palace Waltz (2020)is mainly a sweeping, multi-generational look at the American Jewish experience, traversing Colorado’s rustic mineral boom and the financial and economic roller coasters that affected Jews who played a part in New York’s Gilded Age.
The author obviously did a great deal of historical homework, relying not only on acknowledged sources but her own family history and lore, which gives the story a strong sense of authenticity. The narrative is strong for the most part, although the story falters a bit at first. There are early passages where the descriptions of the natural settings seem almost reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s prairie novels, but, like Wilder, some of the writing feels as if it were intended for younger readers, especially when the characters’ dialogue sounds a bit forced.
As the story moves into New York, however, and increasingly focuses on economic matters — areas in which the author seems more authoritative and comfortable — the tone and voice grow more confident and natural.
The territory covered in The Ice Palace Waltz, both in terms of geography and chronology, is considerable — the novel is nothing if not ambitious in scope — but the author does a yeoman’s job in navigating its many fascinating twists and turns.
Sunday, March 1st, 2pm – 4pm
Occidental Center for the Arts
In The Ice Palace Waltz, two Jewish immigrant families—the rough and ready western pioneers and the smooth ‘our crowd’ New Yorkers—come together in a riveting family saga amid the financial and social turmoil of early 20th Century America.
This event features selected readings with slide show, Q&A, book sales & signing. Free admission, all donations gratefully accepted. Jewish food noshes available by donation, wine/ beer for sale. OCA’s facilities are wheelchair accessible.
About the author:
Barbara L. Baer received her BA and MA at Stanford University before traveling to live and teach in South India and Uzbekistan, U.S.S.R.
Barbara has written for national and international publications and is the author of three previous novels. When the 2008 financial meltdown began, she remembered stories of tragedy and loss following the 1907 Panic and the Crash of 1929 that devastated her families.
In The Ice Palace Waltz, she weaves the lives of two families–one settled in the mining town of Leadville, CO, and the other among the financial speculators in Manhattan—with well-researched history of these dramatic times.
Saturday, March 14th, 2pm – 4pm
The Sitting Room
In Barbara Baer’s The Ice Palace Waltz, two Jewish immigrant families — rough and ready westerners and smooth ‘our crowd’ New Yorkers — come together in a family saga amid the financial and political turmoil of early 20th century America. Barbara, also a journalist and small press publisher, bases her multi-generational saga on remembered stories from her family and much research. She doesn’t think fiction falsifies fact, but rather adds more ingredients to a recipe that deepens the flavors.
Barabara appears with her friend and fellow-author Susan Swartz:
Long time journalist, author, radio commentator and public speaker, Susan Swartz is new to fiction but intimately familiar with the challenges women face as we get older. Laughing in the Dark takes you along on the roller coaster year in three women’s lives as they navigate infidelity, the latest in California dying styles, and the absurdities of aging together, saved by their credo, ”Friendship is the best medicine.” Swartz has said the difference between journalism and fiction is like the difference between a red snapper and a mermaid.
“Paris, 1970s: the orchestra plays the first ominous note of Swan Lake. In the audience sits Geneva, an American journalist and ballet lover, waiting for the heart-stopping beauty and seduction of the romantic duet to start, but instead she witnesses Rudolf Nureyev failing to catch his Russian partner Natalia Makarova, allowing her to fall with a crash upon the stage.”
“..if you enjoy ballet history I would recommend reading this book!”
“The Baer/Morey/Levitin family certainly has a way with words.
How else to explain the Forestville clan’s prolific publishing prowess of late? Three authors, three books, all with different publishers, all in a span of about six months.
Two of the books — one by Barbara Baer, the other by her adult son, Michael Levitin — are novels; the third, by Baer’s husband, Michael Morey, is nonfiction. Each work tells the story of a complicated protagonist on an epic journey in a faraway place. One is set in India, one in the Philippines, one in Berlin. Oh, and the books by Morey and Levitin are debuts.”
BOOK RELEASE PARTY for Michael Levitin’s new novel “DISPOSABLE MAN”
Friday, April 12th 7PM
Occidental Center for the Arts
On Sunday January 6th, Barbara was interviewed by Suzanne Lang on A NOVEL IDEA
Non-fiction to pulp fiction, host Suzanne M. Lang explores the world of books featuring conversations with writers, academics, and readers. We all have a story to tell. It’s A Novel Idea.
“A Novel Idea” is broadcast every first Sunday of the month at 4pm on KRCB.
Barbara L. Baer, publisher of Floreant Press and author of two previous novels joins Suzanne M. Lang in conversation on her latest book set in the south of India, THE LAST DEVADASI, where passionate and forbidden love clashes with tradition and caste.
Listen to Barbara Baer talk with Suzanne Lang about her novel “The Ballet Lover”.
Please join us for a book launch featuring local author Barbara Baer’s new novel The Last Devadasi.
The event will include selected readings, Indian dance troupe performance, author Q & A, book sales and signing. Exotic refreshments served; no charge to attend.
“Readers seeking a story based in India but filled with flavors of past and present will find The Last Devadasi a powerful read that draws important, thought-provoking connections between spirituality, relationships between men and women, and the kinds of institutions that keep old beliefs alive; sometimes beyond their relevance to contemporary experience.”
—Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
Barbara L. Baer received her BA and MA at Stanford University before going to South India to teach and study dance. She has reviewed classical and contemporary dance for newspapers and periodicals in America and France. Credits include fiction in Redbook and reportage for The Nation. She lives in Sonoma County, California, where she and her husband, Michael, who is also a writer, cultivate pomegranates and olives.
A large crowd gathered at the intimate La Bodega Restaurant and Wine Bar in Sebastopol to celebrate the release of Barbaras’s latest book – “The Last Devadasi”. The guests were treated to a performance of Indian dancers trained in the style of dance that the heroine of the book, Kamala Kumari, excelled in.
A dazzling visual experience!
Having visited India earlier in the year, I’ve become slightly obsessed by that wonderful country so it gives me enormous pleasure to welcome back Barbara L. Baer to Linda’s Book Bag today with a fabulous guest post all about how memory and invention have created her Indian setting in celebration of her latest book The Last Devadasi. Barbara previously stayed in with me to tell me about another of her books, The Ballet Lover, in a post that you can read here.
Published by Open Books, The Last Devadasi is available for purchase on your local Amazon site and directly from the publisher.
What led you to write The Last Devadasi?
“When I studied in Madras with the greatest South Indian dancer, Balasaraswati, I learned from her family of the discrimination she had endured because of being born into the devadasi caste. The contradiction that the most venerated dancer, Balasaraswati, had experienced, like other women for a millennia, was that she was dedicated as a girl to a temple deity, determining that she would never marry but only serve as a sexual object to upper caste men. As much as the dance, I learned the determination of caste, and that stayed with me long after I left India.”
– Barbara L. Baer
– “With its turbulent passions amid social upheavals, The Last Devadasi takes readers on a sensual feast in the 1970s palm-shaded trading city of Madras.”
“Kamala Kumari is more than a Gemini Studio starlet: she’s a classical dancer trained in the age-old line of Devadasis, a caste set in place a thousand years ago when girls were first dedicated in south Indian temples to serve the gods and men”
“From the promise of art and devotion, the sacred dancers fell into the hands of priests who both exalted and betrayed them”
Barbara L. Baer Interview
Barbara L. Baer featured in The Press Democrat
The ballerina Natalia Makarova would claim that Rudolf Nureyev purposely held back and let her fall, a breach of trust between dancers. Relations between the pair were icy for 12 years until a performance at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in 1983 seemed to lead to a thaw.
Forestville writer Barbara Baer takes on the lingering question in a new novella, “The Ballet Lover,” (Open Books; $15.95) set within the insular world of ballet at its highest levels back in the early 1970s. Baer spins the story around a young ballet critic and writer, Geneva — loosely based on herself — who witnesses the incident, and Nureyev’s arrogant failure to even help his partner to her feet. Geneva becomes determined to write about the incident, but runs into opposition from an editor who doesn’t want to ruffle feathers.
Read the interview between author Barbara L. Baer and Press Democrat reporter Meg Mcconahey – Nov 12, 2017
Barbara L. Baer featured in Sonoma West Times
Occcidental Center for the Arts presents Barbara Baer, author of the new novel, The Ballet Lover. Baer, who lives in Forestville, will host discussion on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. of her semi-fictionalized work, which focuses on the controversial moment that Baer witnessed as a reporter, when Rudolf Nureyev failed to catch his partner Natalia Makarova at a Paris performance and allowed her to crash on stage.
The original article incorrectly stated that this book is self-published. It is actually published by Open Books.