wenty years on, David Guterson is still best known for his first novel, Snow Falling on Cedars (1994), a huge bestseller that sold nearly four million copies. Though Guterson is Jewish ("We're just liberal, secular Americans with a little matzah on the side," he told the JC in 2011), his writing isn't.
Among the Parisiens of Yasmina Reza's outré and witty new novel, happiness is rare and random. But "novel" is not perhaps the mot juste as it's more a sheaf of monologues spoken by the assorted lovers, families, friends, patients, doctors and colleagues of a loosely-knit, largely Jewish, social group.
By Meg Vandermerwe Oneworld, £10.99
By Jemma Wayne Legend Press, £7.99
Haunting and multi-layered, Zebra Crossing and After Before are both novels that will linger long in the memory after reading. Fitting perhaps, then, that their protagonists are stalked by shadows of unhappy pasts and uncertain futures.
Reading Claire Hajaj's novel took me back to when, last year, I spent Shavuot in Jerusalem, walking to the Old City at dawn against the cry of the Muslim call to prayer. This is the kind of book that Ishmael's Oranges is, one that conjures up the sights, smells and sounds of the Middle East as you turn the pages.
Human beings love stories. But when stories are written down and become important to the community that produced them they start to be scrutinised and questioned, and then a curious thing happens: they lose their magic and become simply the carriers of moral, ethical and metaphysical messages.
As the Second World War ended and the various welfare organisations took stock of the tragedy that had overtaken Nazi-occupied France, they estimated there were some 5,000-6,000 Jewish children who were now orphans, whether hidden in non-Jewish homes around France or over the border in Spain or Switzerland.