From My Bookshelf: THE INNOCENTS, by Francesca Segal

Just a couple of days ago I mentioned that I’ve been reading The Innocents, the debut novel by Francesca Segal. As I noted, Segal’s book updates Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence and transplants it to a tight-knit Jewish community in contemporary London.

I picked up a complimentary pre-publication copy (and had it signed by the author) at last month’s Book Expo America here in New York City. I also had the good fortune to catch one of Segal’s tweets about a reading she was giving at a bookstore in my neighborhood that same week, so I had the chance to hear the book’s opening section read aloud with a suitably British accent.

But it took a few weeks until I managed to start reading the book myself. Once I began, it was tough to put the book down. I’m not at all certain that all other readers will be as captivated by both elements of the book–the adaptation of the Wharton tale and the depiction of a Jewish community and its customs–as I was. But they sure captivated me.

I’ll leave you with a sampling of brief excerpts–passages that I found so resonant that they inspired me to dog-ear their respective pages and return to think consider them more intensively. (more…)

Jewish Literary Links for Shabbat

Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen
Every Friday, My Machberet presents a set of Jewish Literary Links to close out the week.

  • First up: I’m currently reading Francesca Segal’s The Innocents, a novel that updates Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence and transplants it to Jewish London. You still have time to read a copy yourself before the Jewish Book Council’s Twitter chat with the author, which is slated for July 16.
  • Also looking just a bit ahead: If you’re in New York, you may want to catch “Four Jewish Guys: Poetry and Performance,” scheduled for July 19 and featuring Jake Marmer, Jay Michaelson, Yehoshua November, and Philip Terman.
  • Not easy to read, but noteworthy nonetheless: “The American Girl in the Bunker,” a first-person account of a volunteer from New York serving in an IDF paratrooper unit–and dealing with rockets from Gaza.
  • Very different material, but also worth your time: Deborah Eisenberg’s new short story, “Cross Off and Move On.”
  • And over on Bagels and Books, there’s a nice recap of this spring’s Writers’ Festival in Jerusalem.
  • Shabbat shalom!

    From My Bookshelf: The House at Tyneford, by Natasha Solomons

    My latest book review has just appeared on The Jewish Journal‘s website. Here’s how it begins:

    Natasha Solomons is a British writer whose first novel, published in the United States in 2010 as “Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English,” should have received a wider readership. Inspired by the experience of the author’s grandparents, European Jews who fled Nazism for safety in England, that novel focused largely on the challenges and conflicts of assimilation. In the recently published “The House at Tyneford” (Plume, $15), Solomons returns to the Jewish refugee experience in England in the 1930s.

    Read the rest here.

    Jewish Literary Links for Shabbat

    Photo Credit: Reut Miryam Cohen
  • This week, one of the little ones in Auntie Erika’s life turned 8, and as per usual, he received a birthday gift of a book. I sent him Richard Michelson’s Lipman Pike: America’s First Home Run King, which was recently named a Sydney Taylor Notable Book for Young Readers. Check out this interview with Mr. Michaelson (part of the latest blog tour featuring Sydney Taylor Award titles).
  • The above-mentioned interview pointed me to Richard Michaelson’s website, where I discovered this essay Michaelson published some years back, on writing outside one’s own racial/cultural experience.
  • Win a copy of Joan Leegant’s wonderful novel, Wherever You Go.
  • Chas Newkey-Burden (“OyVaGoy”), presents a list of recommended books about Israel.
  • Terrific essay by Sara Ivry for Tablet on a Judy Blume classic, Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself.
  • The Jewish Book Council has announced the winner and runner-up for this year’s Sami Rohr Prize: “This year’s prize is for non-fiction and is awarded to journalist Gal Beckerman. His book, When They Come for Us We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), is a comprehensive and enthralling chronicle of the history of the Soviet Jewry movement. The judges believe Beckerman’s work shows ‘his clear commitment to becoming a storyteller for the Jewish people.’ This is Beckerman’s first book. The runner-up is Oxford lecturer Abigail Green, for her biography, Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero (Belknap Press of Harvard University). She receives a $25,000 prize.”
  • Sample excerpts (translated by Jessica Cohen) from Israeli author Alex Epstein’s forthcoming collection, For My Next Illusion I Will Use Wings.
  • You’ll find a (somewhat overwhelming) list of intriguing new titles in Jewish fiction, poetry, and nonfiction in The Jewish Week‘s spring arts preview.
  • And as London’s Jewish Book Week celebrates its 60th anniversary, it attempts to list 60 great Jewish books of the past six decades.
  • Shabbat shalom!

    Jewish Literary Links for Shabbat (& Hanukkah)

    Okay, so they’re a day ahead of schedule. But I’m setting out on a long weekend away, and I wanted to be sure not to neglect my weekly links!

  • I trust that you are all having a happy Hanukkah. I’m still kvelling over my own story (forgive me!) on the 2011 NPR Hanukkah Lights special. (And marveling over the fact that I’m sharing the radio-stage with Tamar Yellin, whose work I’ve admired for several years.) I’ve also written a little something about the story’s background and the research that went into it.
  • Remaining with the Hanukkah theme: Gail Fishman Gerwin’s “Are We Done Yet?” (courtesy of Your Daily Poem).
  • And if you’re still buying a gift or two, you may find some ideas within Josh Lambert’s latest books column for Tablet.
  • From Poets & Writers magazine, an account of a remarkable Jewish writing workshop: “Last year Poets & Writers funded two workshops in Tucson, Arizona, led by writer Deborah Mayaan and Rabbi Stephanie Aaron. We asked Mayaan to reflect on the first workshop, which occurred just a week after the shooting that took the lives of six people and injured thirteen others, including congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.”
  • Intriguing review by Steven Amanick–with a focus on literary evidence–of Gertrude Himmelfarb’s The People of the Book: Philosemitism in England from Cromwell to Churchill.
  • Shabbat shalom and Happy Hanukkah!

    Jewish Literary Links for Shabbat

  • Fascinating research on truth and lies about the origins of the famous Leon Uris novel Exodus. (via Jewish Ideas Daily)
  • In which you’ll read about Leon Wieseltier, David Grossman…and Occupy Wall Street.
  • Interesting reaction to the recent announcements of the latest National Book Award finalists and the Man Booker Prize winner in Eric Herschthal’s “The Agony & Ecstasy of Jewish Book Awards.”
  • This week, I picked up a copy of Wayne Hoffman’s Sweet Like Sugar, which will be the focus of the next Jewish Book Council Twitter Book Club (November 8). And this week, JewishJournal.com posted a review of the novel.
  • Shabbat shalom, everyone.