Review: We Had It So Good

By Natasha Lehrer, February 7, 2011

By Linda Grant
Virago £14.99

In Linda Grant's We Had It So Good, her fifth and most assured novel, she displays an outstanding gift for excavating a great swathe of social history to reveal the delicate, deliberate human detail at its beating heart.


Review: The Sound of Musicals

By John Nathan, February 7, 2011

By Ruth Leon
Oberon £9.99

If there is a single lesson to take away from Ruth Leon's whirlwind tour through musical theatre history, it is that greatness and success are not the same thing. Take Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera, and then take Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. One was great and flopped, one wasn't and didn't.


The woman who dared: A biography of Amy Levy

By Elaine Feinstein, January 31, 2011

Christine Pullen
Kingston University Press, £20

The tragic figure of Amy Levy has always intrigued me. The child of a prosperous, middle-class family, she was the first Jewish student to study at Newnham College, Cambridge. She went up with a collection of poetry already published to high praise. This included a poem in the voice of Socrates' unhappy wife Xanthippe. When she left Cambridge, her circle of friends soon included Eleanor, the daughter of Karl Marx, the novelist Olive Shreiner, Beatrice Webb, and George Bernard Shaw. Oscar Wilde described her as "a girl of genius".


Review: Rosie Hogarth

By David Herman, January 31, 2011

Alexander Baron
Five Leaves, £9.99

This has been an exciting time for admirers of Alexander Baron, one of the best Jewish novelists and TV dramatists of his generation. Rosie Hogarth is his fourth novel to be republished over recent months and it fills in some interesting gaps in his development and raises some fascinating questions about Jewish working-class writing after the war.


After 1,000 years, is this the end of the story for books?

By Anne Joseph, January 28, 2011

'The only thing more exciting than collecting boxes of Yiddish books was opening them. What treasures lay within!' writes Aaron Lansky in his book, Outwitting History, which describes his attempt "to rescue the world's abandoned Yiddish books". He began collecting in the early 1980s and eventually founded the National Yiddish Book Centre in America where 1.5 million Yiddish books are preserved.


Twentieth Century Jews: Forging Identity in the Land of Promise and in the Promised Land

By Rebecca Abrams, January 27, 2011

Monty Noam Penkower
Academic Studies Press, £54.50

On Easter Sunday, 1903, a pogrom erupted in the city of Kishinev in Bessarabia; 49 Jews were killed, 495 wounded and nearly 2,000 left homeless. Over the next three years, there were violent, antisemitic attacks throughout Russia and the Pale of Settlement, killing around 3,000 Jews and seriously wounding a further 2,000. From 1919 to 1921, ten times that number were murdered in pogroms of increasing brutality in Russia and the Ukraine.


My Innocent Absence

By Amanda Hopkinson, January 27, 2011

By Miriam Frank
Arcadia, £15.99

Miriam Frank has experienced enough in one lifetime to fill several more. Her family tree - spreading out from her German-born mother (who became a Mexican citizen) and Lithuanian-born father (who took US nationality) - maps the Jewish diaspora of the 20th century.


Off with the motley

By John Nathan, January 17, 2011

I Must Collect Myself
By Maureen Lipman
Simon & Schuster, £18.99

A Still Untitled (Not Quite) Autobiography
By Ron Moody
JR Books, £18.99

Although both of these books, by two of Britain's best-loved Jewish comedy actors, are autobiographical, neither is your classically constructed life story.


Review: All Men Are Liars

By Natasha Lehrer, January 17, 2011

Alberto Manguel (Trans Miranda France)
Alma Books, £12.99

It is a rare pleasure to come across a literary, self-reflective novel that consciously explores the treacherous nature of language and writing, while delivering the less intellectual but no less important pleasures that come from reading a thrilling detective story.


Hebrew Poems and Translations

By Nicholas de Lange, January 10, 2011

By Raphael Loewe
Society of Heshaim, Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation
2 Ashworth Road, London W9 1JY
£30 (plus £4.50 p&p)

It was at the twice-yearly meetings of the Hebrew Translation Workshop, which he founded in 1971 and presided over with a benign and somewhat schoolmasterly air for the 35 years of its existence, that I encountered Raphael Loewe as a translator and sat at his feet.