Bette Greene Peter Sourian - Essay

Peter Sourian

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["Morning Is a Long Time Coming"] is the sequel to "Summer of My German Soldier."… In that exceptionally fine novel, Bette Greene delineated the way in which an exceptional young girl could end up being called a "Jew Nazi-lover" precisely on account of the finest aspects of her nature.

In "Morning Is a Long Time Coming," thematic concerns involving fineness or individuality in contention with coarseness and conformity are further considered. Patty, now 18, graduates from high school with an obsession to travel to Goettingen to visit her dead P.O.W.'s mother….

Bette Greene excels at depicting the process by which Patty arrives at each moral insight along the way of her literal and figurative journey, first to Paris and then to Germany.

It is not necessary to have read the earlier novel to read this one. In fact, some of Patty's current realizations seem to me repetitious of the insights she had earned earlier; along with convincing scenes of growth and development in Patty's continuing story, there are occasional traces of petulance and a nagging sense of superiority in Patty that made me dangerously sympathize with her awful mother a few times.

There is in Patty a kind of self-contradictory trait that often accompanies the fine strengths of exceptional individuals, and more might have been made of that sort of complexity.

Also, while Patty is annoyingly quick to doubt herself when she should not, she is often slow with any perspective on her real foibles. It's no doubt to be expected; especially in a young person, but Patty's creator, too, sometimes seems a little slow in this respect.

Nevertheless, this is a very worthwhile book, with wider scope than the modesty of its design might indicate. There is freshness in Bette Greene's treatment of young romance, and Patty's affair with a French boy is just right. But what makes it transcend the standard romantic intrigue is how the ethnic and cultural identities of such different people are integrated with their individualities, and yet kept distinct, and how these people relate to one another and then grow from the common experience. All of this is delicately understood and handled, as is the psychologically acute, bittersweet denouement that takes place in Germany.

Peter Sourian, "The Nazi Legacy, Undoing History: 'Morning Is a Long Time Coming'," in The New York Times Book Review, April 30, 1978, p. 30.