The narrative left to us by Heinrich Wilhelm Hayn, (brother of my husband’s great- great-grandmother Caroline Hayn Hellfeld), tells a fascinating story of life in upper middle class Europe in the 19th century. It has all the earmarks of a good historical novel – a rags to riches story line, humorous anecdotes, a family dynasty, successful careers, exciting travels, wars and pestilence, cultural and technological achievements, joys and heartbreak.
Born into a prominent coffee import family based in Frankfurt, Onkel Hayn’s career took him to Rotterdam, Antwerp, London, and Le Havre, before WWI robbed him of house and fortune. Although his wife died young, he never remarried, and filled his leisure time with social activities, cultural pursuits, and travels, including several to the Swiss mountains. His narrative begins with his grandfather’s youth, and ends around 1918, with countless events described and more than 100 people named in the course of the 276 pages. His elegant writing style, keen sense of observation, and attention to detail makes it a worthwhile read for anyone interested in learning about how past generations lived.