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Margot, by Jillian Cantor

This book review by JL Morin first appeared in Library Journal.

The novel Margot by Jillian Cantor. Riverhead: Penguin Group. September, 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781594486432. $16.

YA author Cantor’s second adult novel (after The Transformation of Things), which explores what might have happened if Anne Frank’s older sister had survived World War II, exerts its grip on the reader from the start and doesn’t let go. In postwar Philadelpha Margot works incognito (as Margie Franklin) in a law firm passing as a Gentile, wearing long-sleeve sweaters in the summer heat to cover her concentration camp tattoo while combing the telephone book for Peter, whose family had been in hiding with Franks in Amsterdam. Peter had promised to meet Margot in the city of brotherly love after the war. Margie’s yearning for Peter threatens to produce results just as she’s falling in love with her boss, who plans to fight discrimination against Jewish workers in America through group litigation. Readers will keep turning pages to find out whether the story of the “‘ghost” of Margot is magical realism or whether Cantor’s Margot didn’t really die at the age of 19, two days before her sister Anne in 1945, but instead escaped the Nazis to start over in Philadelphia. VERDICT Cantor’s deft juxtaposition of the specter of Nazi Germany on the American psyche in the days of Marilyn Monroe reveals itself with unexpected force, although her disregard for Margot’s actual history throws into question the novel’s dramatization of the Nazi war camps.—J.L. Morin, Boston Univ.

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