Despite the already huge canon of Holocaust literature, Elizabeth Rosner's Blue Nude manages to find a unique angle through which to explore the emotional destruction caused by this period in history. In this novel, she examines the burdens carried by the postwar generation - both German and Jewish - and how they must carry the history of their ancestors both physically and psychologically. Also important to Rosner's story is the healing power of art, and how it can bring about reconciliation between two people of conflicting backgrounds.
Tormented artist Danzig fled Germany, haunted by his parents' Nazi past and a childhood tragedy that he cannot forget. As a washed-up middle-aged painter living in California, he makes his living teaching art classes. One day, a new model, Merav, poses in his art class, captivating him to the point of obsession. As an Israeli, she is cautious and alarmed when she hears his German accent. Her grandmother was a Holocaust survivor, and her own painful history in Israel led to her emigration to California. Despite both trying to start their lives over, neither can escape their pasts.
Danzig, determined to see Merav again, tracks her down and asks her to pose for him in his private studio. He has not created a new painting in five years, and he believes that Merav is his muse. It is at this point that Rosner delves into their pasts, recalling their disastrous relationships and the tragedies that mark their lives. Returning to the present, Merav agrees to pose for Danzig, and during one pivotal moment in her modeling, Danzig's past comes out in a flurry of brushes and blue paint. Through Merav, Danzig is able to come to terms with his tragic childhood. And through Danzig, Merav is able to learn how to trust again.
Part of what makes this novel so engaging is Rosner's attention to detail when it comes to writing about art. Her experience in the art world is obvious. She describes the sensuality of art and the catharsis that the act of creating it can bring about. It is through art that she is able to show the fine line between the physical and the emotional. Her deft and artful prose makes this book an absolute pleasure to read. It is profoundly moving, sensitive, and thoughtful.