A Legacy is the tale of two very different families, the Merzes and the Feldens. The Jewish Merzes are longstanding members of Berlin's haute bourgeoisie who count a friend of Goethe among their distinguished ancestors. Not that this proud legacy means much of anything to them anymore. Secure in their huge town house, they devote themselves to little more than enjoying their comforts and ensuring their wealth. The Feldens are landed aristocracy, well off but t rich, from Germany's Catholic south. After Julius von Felden marries Melanie Merz the fortunes of the two families will be strangely, indeed fatally, entwined. Set during the run-up to World War I, a time of weirdly mingled complacency and angst, A Legacy is captivating, magnificently funny, and profound, an unforgettable image of a doomed way of life.
Sybille Bedford (1911-2006) was born Sybille von Schoenebeck in Charlottenburg, Germany, to an aristocratic German father and a partly Jewish, British-born mother. Raised variously in Germany, Italy, France, and England, she lived with her mother and Italian stepfather after her father's death when she was seven, and was educated privately. Encouraged by Aldous Huxley, Bedford began writing fiction at the age of sixteen and went on to publish four novels, all influenced by her itinerant childhood among the European aristocracy: A Legacy (1956), A Favourite of the Gods (1963), A Compass Error (1968), and Jigsaw (1989, short-listed for the Booker Prize). She married Walter Bedford in 1935 and lived briefly in America during World War II, before returning to England. She was a prolific travel writer, the author of a two-volume biography of her friend Aldous Huxley, and a legal journalist, covering nearly one hundred trials. In 1981 she was awarded the Order of the British Empire. Brenda Wineapple's books include Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877 and White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. The recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship, and a 2014 Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Wineapple lives in New York City with her husband, the composer Michael Dellaira.