Invent Radium or I'll Pull Your Hair
Rothschilds and radium were the horizons of Doris's childhood. Born in Germany in the early twentieth century, she came of age in an upper-middle-class family that struggled to maintain its bourgeois respectability between the two World Wars. Now in her nineties, Doris Drucker (she met her husband Peter—of management fame—in the 1930s) has penned a lively and charming memoir that brings to life the Germany of her childhood. Rather than focusing on the rise of Hitler, Drucker weaves history into her story of the day-to-day life of a relatively apolitical family. She chronicles here the crowds that gathered to see the Zeppelin, her attempts to negotiate her Prussian mother's plans for her (like marrying well and becoming a famous scientist), ski trips and hikes, the schools she attended, her father's struggles to support the family, and all the stuff and drama that make up a childhood. Drucker's energetic storytelling, eye for the telling detail, and sly humor draw the reader into her portrait of a way of life made forever poignant by its place in history so close to the brutalities of World War II.
From the boarding school that forbade girls to look at their own legs while they bathed to the unfortunate confusion that resulted from Doris's misinterpretation of "Warsaw has fallen" as "The Waschfrau [washerwoman] has fallen," the tales recounted in Invent Radium or I'll Pull Your Hair give dimension and depth to a milieu that has been flattened by the historical events around it.