Maia (Teresa) Wojciechowska Mary M. Burns - Essay

Mary M. Burns

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Confession may be good for the soul, but confessional writing may not be good reading unless the penitent is blessed, as is the author of [Till the Break of Day, Memories: 1939–1942] remarkable document, with an understanding of life's absurdities, a sense of the dramatic, and a felicitous talent for precise, vivid description. Because [Maia Wojciechowska has] these qualities, her reminiscences of a turbulent adolescence during the Second World War are both intensely personal and yet recognizable as a universal statement on the tragicomic conditions which are a necessary part of maturation. The Foreword, comparing the writing of autobiography to the making of a movie, makes use of a particularly apt analogy, for the narrative techniques—employing flashbacks and montages of impressionistic detail—suggest contemporary cinematography. And only a wide screen with stereophonic sound would be appropriate for a heroine who, in three short years, conducted a personal war against the Nazis, become involved with a strangely romantic and mysterious ballerina, and at fifteen, finding life unbearable, decided to die magnificently—like all the great women of fiction. Frank in its delineation of the adolescent's romantic fantasizing, painful in its exploration of the daughter's yearning for her hero-father's approval, provocative in its appraisal of war's effects on family and social relationships, the book is a dazzling blend of emotional pyrotechnics and disciplined structure.

Mary M. Burns, in her review of "Till the Break of Day, Memories: 1939–1942," in The Horn Book Magazine (copyright © 1972 by The Horn Book, Inc., Boston), Vol. XLVIII, No. 6, December, 1972, p. 609.