By Julya Rabinowich (Trans: Tess Lewis) Portobello £12.99
The conflicting politics of the Cold War were bolstered by contrasting cultural priorities between East and West - a point perfectly illustrated by Julya Rabinowich in this, her debut novel. Splithead is an account of a Jewish daughter of the Soviet Union coming to terms with a new life in Vienna.
Jerusalem: The Biography
By Simon Sebag Montefiore Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £25.00
The Jewish Odyssey: An Illustrated History
Marek Halter Flammarion, £27.50
On a visit to Jerusalem, Thackeray mused: "There's not a spot at which you may look but where some violent deed has been done, some massacre, some visitors murdered, some idol worshipped with bloody rites."
This essential, comprehensive collection takes in Ruth Fainlight's 1966 Cages through to Moon Wheels of 2006. It opens with 22 pages of hitherto uncollected poems, and closes with another 24 of translations from the Portuguese of Sophia de Mello Breyner, the Mexican of Victor Manuel Mendiola, and the Theban Plays of Sophocles.
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.
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 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".