Ian Buruma's maternal grandparents, Bernard and Winifred (Bun & Win), wrote to each other regularly throughout their life together. The first letters were written in 1915, when Bun was still at school at Uppingham and Win was taking music lessons in Hampstead. They were married for more than sixty years, but the heart of their remarkable story lies within the span of the two world wars.
After a brief separation, when Bernard served as a stretcher bearer on the Western Front during the Great War, the couple exchanged letters whenever they were apart. Most of them were written during the Second World War and their correspondence is filled with vivid accounts of wartime activity at home and abroad. Bernard was stationed in India as an army doctor, while Win struggled through wartime privation and the Blitz to hold her family together, including their eldest son, the later film director John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, Sunday Bloody Sunday), and twelve Jewish children they had arranged to be rescued from Nazi Germany.
Their letters are a priceless record of an assimilated Jewish family living in England throughout the upheavals of the twentieth century and a moving portrait of a loving couple separated by war. By using their own words, Ian Buruma has created a spellbinding homage to the sustaining power of a family's love and devotion through very dark days
A fascinating story... The complexities of class, race and nationhood are subtly teased out Author: Blake Morrison Source: Guardian
A gentle and intimate study of identity and love... It is to Buruma's credit that so much has been laid bare... This is rich material that still resonates today. On matters of identity, on the public and private, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Author: Philippe Sands Source: Financial Times
This artful volume reveals a good deal about the world we live in today... Exceptional Source: Spectator
Their Promised Land is a carefully and admirably written, highly readable work of social history told charmingly in a most intimate way through a close perusal of family correspondence. Buruma writes of British-born Jews of the upper-middle class with a great, sympathetic perspicacity and sweetness - these are after all his grandparents who are his subject - and, most revealingly, he traces with precision the effect on their lives of being Jews of German origin in their beloved England during the two world wars. Source: Philip Roth
In this warmly affectionate, richly textured family chronicle, Ian Buruma draws on his own memories and a treasure trove of intimate letters, to uncover a moving love story, and paint a vivid picture of a seemingly idyllic world darkened by unexpected shadows... A fascinating, subtle, wonderfully readable book. Source: Eva Hoffman
From these letters, Ian Buruma has woven an utterly engrossing story of cultivated, upper class German Jews who grew up in England and made its values their own... At once family memoir and history, this is a book to linger over and savour. Source: Lisa Appignanesi
A distinguished historian, Mr Buruma approaches his subject with the loving eye of a grandchild and an awareness of the larger forces that shaped their lives. His sensitive portrayal of the immigrant's divided loyalties and divided identity is timely in light of Europe's current struggle with colliding national, religious and ethnic identities. Source: The Economist
In Their Promised Land, Ian Buruma offers a searching, tender memorial of his grandparents' marriage that is, at the same time, a clarifying study in the complicated pleasures and discontents of multiple identity. Source: Adam Thirlwell
Ian Buruma, the critic, is justly famous for his ferocious acuity. Ian Buruma, the grandson, brings that same clarity of observation to this exceptional memoir, but he also writes with an elegiac tenderness that may surprise - and will deeply move - both his fans, and those readers who have yet to discover his magisterial gifts. Source: Judith Thurman
Buruma impressively captures his grandparents' remarkable lives in this insightful narrative. The author shapes his family's labor of a lifetime into a scintillating work of art. Source: Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)