By Thomas Trebitsch Parker.
325 pages
ISBN # 0-452-27225-4
New York: Penguin Group, Plume Books, 1994

Comments by Bob Corbett
December 2001

Born Anna Moser in Vienna in 1917, this is the story of her life, from her tenth year in 1927 through her fortuitous leaving of Vienna in 1937 to become Ann in England, eventually becoming Annie in the U.S. Each name change organizes another whole part of the tragic life of this woman who dies at her own hands before she is 40.

I think this is one of saddest stories I have ever read. Anna was raised in a permissive and unloving family, her bourgeois Jewish parents each so absorbed with their own lives that she develops a sense of her own worthlessness. Nonetheless, she early on develops a tremendous talent on the piano, but eventually abandons it. This abandonment of her talent and sort of floating in the world perhaps defines the catastrophe that becomes her life. She has many opportunities, talents, and possibilities, yet she never takes any and ends up in three disastrous relationships, feeling, and Parker skillfully making us believe her, that at the end of her third liaison she has no realistic options but suicide.

Thomas Parker writes brilliantly of this tragic life. It could be read as a stern warning to any woman who chooses not to develop her own life of economic security and possibilities and who risks all on being cared for by a man. That theme not only pervades the book, but is hammered into us in the most powerful manner I know in fiction.

Yet he is able to rise above the very general, and present Anna, Ann, Annie as a very real person who is extremely difficult to understand, yet whose disastrous path we follow with ease if great foreboding. Her first husband, Peter Hartmann is a sweet Viennese physician who, has loved Anna all her life and when she foolishly returns to Vienna in 1938 he rescues her and brings her to a new life in New York. She marries this man she has never loved and they settle into what we can see is a doomed relationship.

Soon after, when she is just 21, she falls in love with David Green (formerly Greenberg and another emigrant European Jew) and they have some good years together and a son, Will, for whom Ann tries hard to be a better parent than hers were to her. However, life with David fails to provide love or security. During this period the one man who perhaps loved her the most, Nathan Pearl, an older ex-Viennese also who is now an impresario in New York, who revives her keyboard career and treats her with love and tenderness, but he dies before that love can really be recognized or accepted by Ann. With the death of Nathan she again abandons her piano.

Instead, as David falls out of love with her, she meets his acquaintance, Jake Weigel, former New York District Attorney and wheeler, dealer. She forms a disastrous 6 year relationship with him. It is Jack who gives her name its last form, Annie. In leaving the city and moving into Jake's remote rural resort which he has dreams of building up, she sets herself up for hopeless and complete dependence. She ends up a woman with no hope who exacerbates her own fate with too much Cointreau.

In addition to being a chilling but powerful story of the three Anns and of the general life form of women who have no personal life independent of their mates, the first half the novel is a brilliant portrait of the coming of the Nazis to Vienna from 1927 until 1938 and bits and pieces of what comes after, related in relation to her mother and step-father who both survive the war.

This is an incredible book, but among the most difficulty stories to read I have even attempted. The writing is superb, done in a series of ever changing scenarios in her life and names, but the content is so desperately tragic that one feels the pain throughout the entire novel. This is a book that can make one feel deeply, but the feelings are just so incredibly painful that I'm not sure it is for everyone.

About the author

Preface to an interview with Parker

Tom Parker (A/K/A Thomas Trebitsch Parker) has authored five books. His first novel, Small Business, was a Bay Area best seller and honored by the Commonwealth Club. Anna, Ann, Annie was also a Bay Area best seller as well as a National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize nominee. Mr. Parker also co-authored the national best-selling Winfield: A Player's Life (W.W. Norton/Avon) with former New York Yankee superstar Dave Winfield; and CEO: Building a $400 Million Company from the Ground Up (W.W. Norton/Harvard Business School Press) with ASK Group founder, Sandra Kurtzig. A management book, Leadership and the Customer Revolution, was co-authored with Gary Heil and Rick Tate (Van Nostrand Reinhold) with a second management book, One Size Fits One, under contract with the same publisher. His short stories have appeared in Harper's and other literary magazines and anthologies including Prize Stories 1971: The O. Henry Awards.

In addition to his literary endeavors, he has been developing film, video, video teleconferences and executive speeches for over twenty five years. Past and present clients include Acuson, Adobe, Amdahl, Apple, Coldwell Banker, the Gap, Hewlett-Packard, Honda, Silicon Graphics, Suzuki and Tandem. He has a B.A. in Communication from Stanford and an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. He has been on the Stanford faculty and currently teaches writing at the University of California and Foothill College.

Bob Corbett

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Bob Corbett