Books

Review: The Informers

By David Herman, April 2, 2009

By Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Trans: Anne McLean)
Bloomsbury, £7.99

When Gabriel Santoro, a young journalist, publishes his first book, it is well received except for one reviewer who savages it — his father. The father is a distinguished professor and lawyer and he does not just take against his son’s book. He hates it. Clearly, the son has crossed some line. But what is it?

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Review: About Time - Growing old disgracefully

By Julia Neuberger, April 2, 2009

By Irma Kurtz
John Murray, £16.99

‘Before grey hair you shall stand up,” our Torah tells us. Respect for the old is deeply ingrained in Jewish thought, and our sense of communal obligation towards our old and frail is strongly felt across our community. And yet, despite the homes we support, the volunteers we involve and the activities we provide, I often think we have failed, in some quite profound way, to get to grips with the emotions of ageing.

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Review: The Samaritan’s Secret

By Jenni Frazer, March 26, 2009

By Matt Rees
Atlantic Books, £11.99

There is something slightly unsavoury about reading Matt Rees’s latest Palestinian thriller in the wake of the Gaza conflict. It is the third outing for his rather unappealing hero, Omar Yussef, whose base as a history teacher in Bethlehem is not what you might think of as the ideal background for a dogged detective.

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SAS hero’s guilty secret

By David Cesarani, March 26, 2009

In 1949, Major Roy Farran, a highly decorated 28-year-old veteran of the SAS, published his autobiography, Winged Dagger: Adventures On Special Service. It was an immediate bestseller. In vivid prose, he recounted his service as a tank commander in north Africa and Crete, where he was captured. He recalled his amazing escape from Greece to Egypt and his part in the retreat to El Alamein. The core of his story concerned his years in the SAS and a succession of daring missions behind enemy lines in Sicily, Italy and France in 1943-45.

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Review: Ruth Maier’s Diary

By Amanda Hopkinson, March 19, 2009

By Ruth Maier (Ed: Jan Erik Vold)
Harvill Secker

Though Ruth Maier died in 1942, her diary has only now been published in the UK, two years after its first publication in Norway, Maier’s home for the last four years of her short life preceding her deportation to Auschwitz. It takes its place within a climate of interest in such offerings alongside Helene Berr’s Journal in France and Deborah Moggach’s recent television adaptation here of The Diary of Anne Frank.

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Affecting, affected

By David Herman, March 19, 2009

At the end of the Second World War, Jacob Noah emerges from the forest, where he has been hiding. He goes to his Dutch hometown, Assen. His parents and brother have been taken away by the Nazis and their shop has become an Aryan bookshop. There, surrounded by Dutch nationalist books and posters of Teutonic heroes, Noah confronts the shop-owner, his head full of thoughts of revenge.

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Review: Not the Enemy: Israel’s Jews from Arab Lands

By Miriam Halahmy, March 19, 2009

By Rachel Shabi
Yale University Press, £18.99

Rachel Shabi was born in Israel to Iraqi parents and grew up in England. She is a journalist who explores in this book the experience of Jews from Arab and Muslim lands who entered Israel after 1948. Using eye witness accounts, Shabi lays down the full spectrum of experience of the Oriental/Mizrahi Jews in modern Israel. Much of it echoes the viewpoints of my husband’s Iraqi family and friends, related to me over our 30-year marriage.

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The ‘Yiddish’ son of a priest and a nun

By Madeleine Kingsley, March 12, 2009

It’s not every day that Jewish literary prizes go to a gentile. The last outsider recipient of the US National Jewish Book award for fiction was John Hersey (for The Wall), back in 1950. So it is quite something that 34-year-old Peter Manseau, self-styled “non-Jewish, Jewish novelist” has just won the same award plus the Sophie Brody medal for outstanding achievement in Jewish literature.

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We too belong to Glasgow

By Jenni Frazer, March 12, 2009

It will come as a surprise to most Glaswegian Jews that they are “epiphytic”. Not being familiar with the term, I discovered it refers to air plants, or parasites: that which has no discernible means of support, but lives off other entities.

I rather hope this is not what Piers Dudgeon had in mind when he gave his attention to the Jews of Glasgow in his enjoyable social history, Our Glasgow, Memories of Life in Disappearing Britain (Headline, £12.99).

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Review: Who will write our history?

By Anshel Pfeffer, March 12, 2009

By Samuel D Kassow
Allen Lane, £10.99

The brave achievement of Emanuel Ringelblum could easily have been lost to history. A minor historian, mid-level activist in a small political movement, selflessly devoted relief worker, he was murdered with his family in the Warsaw Ghetto at the age of 43.

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