Book bites and views from reviews

You've heard of a condensed read, well here are some condensed reviews from 2017


Vernon Bogdanor on How Long Will Israel Survive? by Gregg Carlstrom (Hurst): “[His] criticisms are based on a real and genuine concern for the future of the state. They should be pondered carefully by all those who wish Israel well”.

Moris Farhi on Charlotte by David Foenkinos, translated by Sam Taylor (Canongate): “Foenkinos’s paean of Charlotte Salomon’s life… is a tour de force. Every important detail and much more of this supreme artist’s life, “a hierarchy of horror”, is recorded lovingly, passionately, obsessively and lyrically”. 

Stephen Frosh on Freud, An intellectual Biography by Joel Whitebook (Cambridge): “A sensitive account of Freud that… gives a realistic portrait of the Jewishness that ran as a partially submerged but crucial theme throughout his life”. 

Anne Garvey on The Power by Naomi Alderman (Viking):“Alderman displays an affecting sense of humour that strangely suffuses her book’s endless crashes and relentless electric shock stand-offs”. 

David Herman on Dinner at the Centre of the Earth by Nathan Englander (Weidenfeld & Nicolson): A dark, profound meditation on the state of Israel and also a gripping thriller full of twists and moral ambiguity”. 

Gerald Jacobs on A Long Saturday: Conversations by George Steiner with Laure Adler, translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan (Chicago UP): “[Steiner] bases his ‘fundamental’ anti-Zionism on his belief that the Jew belongs to no country, his task to be a guest ready to ‘pack our bags and leave again’”. 

Gabriel Josipovici on Hayam Nachman Bialik: Poet of Hebrew by Avner Holtzman (Yale): “Like Yeats for the Irish, Bialik was more than the first great modern Hebrew poet; he was the conscience of his people” . 

Madeleine Kingsley on All the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan (Serpent’s Tail): “Both have return tickets, he to Ramallah and she to her ‘precious bustling Israeli life’ … The concrete wall going up back home, even as they bring down personal barriers, is a symbol of all that will separate them psychologically, politically and tribally”. 

Michael Knipe on Barcelona is in Trouble by Henry Woolf (Greville Press): “He tells of how he facilitated Pinter’s extramarital affair with Joan Bakewell”. 

Sipora Levy on Small Pieces: A Book of Lamentations by Joanne Limburg (Atlantic): “This is a courageous piece of work and a valuable contribution to our understanding of mental health issues, and indeed suicide”. 

Robert Low on One Thing and Another by Jonathan Miller, edited by Ian Greaves (Oberon): “He feels embarrassed to be Jewish… On Dick Cavett’s American TV show in 1980, Miller was blunt about it: ‘I have no subscription to the creed and no interest in the race’”. 

Stoddard Martin on A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert (William Collins): “Its ending may shock some and inspire others. One longs to see, hear and react to its emotion on screen. Someday it may rank as a classic of the Wild East.” 

Alan Montague on Moonglow by Michael Chabon (Fourth Estate): “There’s a comforting sprinkling of Yiddish, a more than nodding acquaintance with religious ritual, and some recognisable American Jewish characters — although Uncle Ray, the rabbi who abandons the pulpit in favour of pool-hall hustling, must be some kind of a first”. 

Julia Neuberger on Munich 1919 by Victor Klemperer, translated by Jessica Spengler (Polity). “This account needs to be read for itself and its dramatic descriptions of chaos and political madness. But it also needs to be read as a harbinger of the future — and attitudes that shaped German acquiescence in, and belief in, the violent antisemitism of Nazi ideology”.

Robert Philpot on Devil’s Bargain by Joshua Green (Penguin): “On the morning after Trump’s election, a reporter suggested to Bannon their story had all the makings of a Hollywood movie. ‘Brother’, he replied, ‘Hollywood doesn’t make movies where the bad guys win’”. 

Michael Pinto-Duschinsky on Kasztner’s Crime by Paul Bogdanor (Transaction): “[It] takes the history of the Holocaust in Hungary a considerable step forward.” 

Stephen Pollard on Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine by Anne Applebaum (Allen Lane): “Drawing on official documents and witnesses, she has a recognisable style, channeling both the hyper-detailed and the bigger picture into a (very) readable narrative”. 

Monica Porter on We’ll Always Have Casablanca by Noah Isenberg (Faber and Faber): “Isenberg tells us that nearly all of the 70-odd actors and actresses who made up the rest of the cast were immigrants, real refugees portraying the refugee characters who had washed up in Rick’s café, and playing the Nazis, too”. 

Bernard Wasserstein on Britain’s Hegemony in Palestine and the Middle East 1917-56 by Michael J Cohen (Vallentine Mitchell): “Cohen argues that ‘the Churchill legend’, in all that concerned the Jews and Zionism, did not match up to reality”. 


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