Books

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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Review: Bodies

By Julia Neuberger, February 18, 2009

By Susie Orbach
Profile Books, £10.99

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Slippery truth about biography

By Anne Sebba, February 18, 2009

It used to be simple: there was fiction and there was non-fiction. No longer. Now there is bio-fiction and there is imagined biography. There are novels based on true stories and edited writers’ notebooks as well as celebrity or ghostwritten memoirs, diaries and still the occasional straightforward biography. Or, should that actually be, the occasional biography written backwards?

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Review: Major Farran’s Hat

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 12, 2009

By David Cesarani
William Heinemann, £20

On May 6 1947, Alexander Rubowitz, a teenage member of “Lehi” — “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel”, — was abducted in Jerusalem by a “special squad” of the Palestine Police, led by Roy Farran, who later interrogated and murdered him.

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Literature = art + science

February 12, 2009

Late in life, Benjamin Disraeli was asked to account for his transformation from young dandy-about-town to sombre Victorian politician. He replied: “The English prefer their statesmen like their weather — cold and grey.” Until very recently, the same could be said of how the English like their scientists. No emotion, please, we’re British.

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