In Joseph Skibell’s new novel, Dr Jakob Sammelsohn, an impoverished ophthalmologist in Vienna with a non-existent sex life, falls in love with a woman he sees at the theatre. In the play’s interval, he engineers a conversation with her companion, who, it transpires, is Sigmund Freud.
Unorthodox is an account of Deborah Feldman’s Chasidic upbringing in New York, her unhappiness at what she sees as her oppression, and ultimately her escape into secular society. Inevitably, the Satmar community in which Feldman grew up has responded aggressively, accusing her of mistakes, omissions and outright lies.
Butterflies represent the souls of the dead, according to the ancient Greeks. And lepidopterous lore becomes a fascination for 12-year-old Becky in Butterfly Summer, by Anne-Marie Conway (Usborne, £5.99). Becky spends her days by the lake in the village butterfly garden, where she makes a new friend, Rosa May.
On Page 273, one character picks up a book, “a romance novel, one of seven she has brought. She consumes one every two days.” The Grief of Others is itself one part romance novel, two parts chick lit. It includes three affairs, two unwanted pregnancies, one runaway child, numerous dead parents and siblings, a miscarriage and a brief moment of soft-core incest. All in 370 pages.
Savage Continent is Keith Lowe's revealing and comprehensive account of the ravaged state of Europe in the wake of the Second World War. Lowe shows how the "peace", for many, was anything but. The continent was blighted by starvation, poverty, violence and lawlessness. The book paints a vivid picture of the rocky road that eventually led to stability.
This is an extraordinary book. More autobiography than novel much of the time, it has a fictional twist. The fictional Angelika was born in Germany, and spent the war in Bulgaria, just as the writer did, and returned to Germany in 1947, as the writer did, too.