“If Elisabeth de Waal’s name sounds familiar, credit her grandson, Edmund de Waal. His acclaimed book ‘The Hare with Amber Eyes‘ (2010) chronicled the history of Elisabeth’s family, the Ephrussis, an eminent Jewish clan in Europe. As readers of the younger de Waal’s book may recall, Elisabeth (1899-1991) lived an accomplished life, but one achievement eluded her: Although she wrote five novels — two in German and three in English — not one found a publisher. Until recently.
The manuscript now published as ‘The Exiles Return‘ is set mainly in 1954-55, in the months leading up to the signing of the State Treaty, which, the novel’s brief and enigmatic prelude reminds us, ‘led to the withdrawal of the Allied Occupation forces and finally restored Austria’s independence.’ This setting may prompt some readers to view ‘The Exiles Return’ as a historical novel, but for Elisabeth, it was a fairly contemporary creation.”
Please read the rest of my review in The Washington Post.
For the past two years, I’ve found it useful (and kind of fun) to look back on “my year in Jewish books.” So, borrowing some of the same introductory wording, I’m going to attempt to do something similar for 2013, even if Hanukkah came so early this year that this 2013 iteration lacks the same usefulness a gift-inspiration guide.
Reviewing my reading for 2013 (thank you, Goodreads!), I can see that I do not and would not ever limit my reading to “Jewish books” exclusively. (By the way, in case you haven’t heard me say this before, I define “Jewish books” as books with substantive Jewish content. In my view, non-Jewish authors can write “Jewish books.” And Jewish authors can write books that don’t strike me as particularly Jewish.)
But this year, as usual, I did read quite a few books that fall within the “Jewish book” category. And, as an advocate for Jewish literature, I’m proud of that.
Below, you will find these books presented in the order in which I read them. Please note that, where appropriate, I have included links to reviews, essays, and newsy items I have written; interviews I have conducted; and the odd blog post. I have also disclosed how I obtained each book: P (purchase), R (complimentary review copy/complimentary seminar copy), L (library). Continue reading ›
Some months ago, I was granted access to a digital galley of Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel. As soon as I heard that the book had won the inaugural Natan Book Award (the committee for which included my idol Jeffrey Goldberg), the book went straight to the top of my TBR list. I knew that it was going to be pretty impressive.
And it was. But I didn’t feel sufficiently qualified to write about it. So I didn’t seek a reviewing assignment before the book’s official release this month.
But I am continuing to be impressed–and educated–as I listen to Shavit’s radio interviews and read reviews of the book. Continue reading ›