Books

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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Review: Daddy's Rules

By Rebecca Abrams, March 5, 2009

By Rachel Sontag
Harper Perennial, £7.99

For Rachel Sontag, madness was so embedded in the normalcy of family life that it was years before she realised it was madness. Daddy’s Rules is her deeply disturbing account of a childhood destroyed by years of unstinting psychological abuse.

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Grandad fights back

By Joy Sable, March 5, 2009

You can try to escape your heritage, but it will catch up with you in the end. That’s the message of Andrew Sanger’s charming tale, The J-Word (Snowbooks, £7.99), set in and around Golders Green. But you don’t have to be a north-west Londoner, or Jewish, to enjoy this story of rediscovered identities. (There’s an extensive glossary to help with the abundance of Yiddish and Hebrew words.)

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Review: The kindly ones

By David Herman, March 5, 2009

This huge Holocaust novel is likely to be the literary talking-point of the spring. Published in France in 2006, it won the country’s most prestigious literary prize, the Prix Goncourt, and has already sold more than a million copies in Europe. Le Figaro called it “a monument of contemporary literature”.

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Review: Hurry Down Sunshine

By Rebecca Abrams, March 5, 2009

By Michael Greenberg
Bloomsbury, £12.99

What purpose is there in madness?”, King David asked God. The same question lies at the heart of Hurry Down Sunshine, Michael Greenberg’s mesmerising account of the acute psychosis that suddenly engulfed his daughter, Sally, when she was 15 years old.

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Review: Black Heart

February 26, 2009

Justin Somper’s childhood ambitions were “to be a child movie star and to win Wimbledon. I’d drawn Bjorn Borg in chalk on the garage wall and hit some balls at him — but I really needed to take it to the next level.”

Fortunately, he was also writing stories and he did take these to the next level — and further.

His first published book was The Pyramid Plot — “a puzzle adventure chiefly memorable for the villain, Iona Fortune”. A few years later, he had the idea for “the ultimate teen novel, with vampires, surfing, fast cars and rock band”. It sank.

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Why I take youngsters into the hell of the Shoah

By Anne Joseph, February 26, 2009

When children’s author Morris Gleitzman read the biography of Janusz Korczak, he was so inspired by the doctor’s selfless acts that it became “one of the catalysts” for his writing a series of books about the Holocaust.

He began with Once (2006) and continues in Then. “I had wanted to write a story about love and friendship — two examples of the best we’re capable of — and place them within the context of our very worst behaviour.” Korczak’s experience helped him to focus on this as a writing goal.

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