Tag : book review

October 23, 2020 by

Holocaust Fiction Now

Over the past 18 months or so, many of the new novels received at the Lilith office have centered on the Holocaust; several, like The Tattooist of Auschwitz, marketed as potential bestsellers. This flood of fiction from women is unlike memoirs written by survivors themselves or conveyed via their daughters’ retellings. Now, a third generation, clearly affected by Holocaust experiences either in their own families or from other exposure, has moved those experiences from memoir into fiction. In the 1970s, Elie Wiesel—himself a writer of Holocaust fiction––famously argued that writers should foreswear fictionalizing the events of the Shoah. Critic Ruth Franklin takes a gentler stance in A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction, a study of immense depth and range that offers a lucid view of an often cloudy field (Goodreads).

Here, a partial list of recent novels in this challenging category.

The Takeaway Men
by Meryl Ain [SparkPress, $16.95]
“The author’s tale is sensitively composed, a thoughtful exploration into the perennially thorny issues of religious identity, assimilation, and the legacy of suffering.” —Kirkus Reviews

The World that We Knew
by Alice Hoffman [Simon & Schuster, $17.00]
“Set in Nazi-occupied France between 1941 and 1944, Hoffman’s latest (after The Rules of Magic) is a bittersweet parable about the costs of survival and the behaviors that define humanity.” —Publishers Weekly

The Things We Cannot Say
by Kelly Rimmer [Graydon House Books, $28.99]
Truth and lies in Nazi-occupied Poland in 1942 drive this tale from bestselling author Rimmer. The novel is about a Polish Christian family in the U.S. whose family secrets, unearthed in present-day America and Poland, upend the narrative that generations had come to understand as their own. (Goodreads)

They Went Left
by Monica Hesse [Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $9.99]
“Hesse writes with tenderness and insight about the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive and the ways we cobble together family with whatever we have. When the plot twists come, they are gut punches–some devastating, others offering hope….” —New York Times Book Review

The Star and the Shamrock
by Jean Grainger [Kindle Direct Publishing, $15.99]
The story of two Jewish children fleeing Berlin during the Holocaust, a newly widowed and motherless woman in Ireland, and their unlikely connection.

The Brothers of Auschwitz
by Malka Adler [HarperCollins, $16.99]

Alternating viewpoints between two brothers separated from their families and taken to Auschwitz, this harrowing story describes how they found one another again.

The German Midwife

by Mandy Robotham [HarperCollins, $15.99]
Anke Hoff, a midwife imprisoned in concentration camp, is tasked with delivering the baby of the Führer. The impossible decision: whether to deliver the innocent child, or sacrifice it for a greater good?

Cilka’s Journey
by Heather Morris [Macmillan, $27.99]
“In the stirring follow-up to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Morris tells the story of a woman who survives Auschwitz, only to find herself locked away again. Morris’s propulsive tale shows the goodness that can be found even inside the gulag.” —Publishers Weekly

The Light After the War
by Anita Abriel [Atria Books, $27.00]
“[Abriel] deftly sketches the postwar world from Naples to Venezuela and Australia,
with attention paid to the changed architectural and emotional landscapes. The rubble of bombed cities, the blank map of lost relatives, and the uncertainty of day-to-day survival outline the anguish of the lost generation.” —Kirkus Reviews

House on Endless Waters
by Emuna Elon [Atria Books, $17.00]
“A story of love, loss, and yearning. Lyrically phrased and often powerfully visual…this deeply felt tale offers a rewarding meditation on survival.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

The Collaborator
by Diane Armstrong [HarperCollins, $16.99]
Past and present come together in this tale of a woman trying to discover the truth
about her grandmother’s rescue from the death camps in 1944 and a Jewish journalist
who attempts to save her and thousands of others.

The Last Train to London
by Meg Waite Clayton [HarperCollins, $27.99]
This is a standout historical fiction that serves as a chilling reminder of how insidious, pervasive evil can gradually seep into everyday lives.” —Publishers Weekly

The Things We Cherished
by Pam Jenoff [Random House, $17.00]
“A skillfully rendered tale of undying love, unthinkable loss and the relentless grip of the past on the present” —Kirkus Reviews

 

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August 26, 2020 by

Friendships and Race: A New Orleans Coming of Age Story

New Orleans, in all its tawdry glory, is the setting for Iris Martin Cohen’s second novel, Last Call on Decatur Street (Park Row Books, $27.99).  After swearing that she’ll never get to return to the Big Easy, Rosemary gets kicked out of college and finds herself back in her hometown, working as a burlesque dancer. Most nights she dulls her private sorrow with a combination of booze, drugs and sex but on the January night in question, her world is cracked wide open and she’s forced to confront the choices—good and bad—that she’s made.  Cohen talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about how her Jewish protagonist fits into this very Catholic world. 

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August 13, 2020 by

Daphne Merkin on the Nature of Love and Lust

Daphne Merkin is an essayist known for her take—at once both ferociously observant and fiercely introspective—on everything from depression, spanking during sex and the importance of handbags.  In 22 Minutes of Unconditional Love (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26)) her first novel in more than 30 years, Merkin turns her gimlet-eyed attention to Judith Stone, a young book editor in New York City who has not yet had her first real reckoning with love—or with the erotic charge that often fuels it. 

Enter Howard Rose, the somewhat older attorney she meets at a party.  Howard arouses her in ways she’s never before experienced and very quickly, she’s putty in his hands.  That he’s inclined to insult, undermine and emotionally abuse her only makes him more desirable.  Merkin talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about the nature of lust, love and whether the two can ever truly be reconciled. 

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August 5, 2020 by

Nostalgia for the 1939 World’s Fair

Neither Maxine Roth nor Vivi Holden wanted to be sent to World’s Fair in the spring of 1939; Max was angling for a journalism internship at the New York Times and Vivi was excited by a starring role—her first—in the Hollywood film Every Last Sunset. But both young women do end up at the fair.  What they learn—about themselves, the nature of friendship and indeed life—are the basis for the novel We Came Here to Shine (St. Martin’s, $16.99). Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough chats with author Susie Orman Schnall about her entertaining new summer read—think of it as a perfect respite from the horror of the daily news.   (more…)

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July 31, 2020 by

Is Rape a Crime? A Conversation with Michelle Bowdler

Is Rape a Crime: A Memoir, an Investigation and a Manifesto (Flatiron, $27.99) ought to come with a warning: parts of this book are so harrowing that I frequently had to put it down for a spell before picking it up again, avid to continue. Long after the fact, author Michelle Bowdler returns to the home invasion and brutal rape she suffered as a young woman.  As one might expect, the attack both branded and shaped her.  When she was finally ready to explore the subject in print, she was able to go deep into her own experience but also wide, to place it within a historical and cultural context.  Bowdler talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about what this literary exploration has meant for her—and what she hopes it will mean to others. 

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July 16, 2020 by

“Better Things:” Your Jewish and Frankly Feminist Review

Better Things reached season 4 and protagonist Sam’s kids are still assholes: the formerly angelic Duke a little bit more, the always caustic Frankie a little bit less, and we barely see lovely wild child Max anymore. Time, in the world of this funny, melancholic, and moving show about raising three daughters as a divorced single mom in LA, is progressing. And Sam – played by director and creator Pamela Adlon, herself, like Sam, a single divorced mother with a Jewish father – is moving on too.  This season is all about movement: in the water that forms the backdrop to every episode in one way or another; in the lingering camera shots that dwell on paintings, or facial expressions, in an expected black and white silent movies; and in the interviews of women that dwell lovingly and joyfully and painfully on their words as if to insist that these words matter. 

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July 14, 2020 by

Stitching for Survival: the Story of Holocaust Survivor Trudie Strobel

Some artists work with a brush; others with a pen, and still others with their voices, bodies, or a musical instrument. Trudie Strobel’s instrument is a slender needle, and she wields it with fierce and incredible power. Lilith first learned of Trudie Strobel’s recovery of her Holocaust past when she told Rabbi Susan Schnur of recreating the treasured doll the Nazis had torn away from her when she was a small child. When Jody Savin encountered Strobel’s work, she knew she had to tell her story (Stitched & Sewn: The Life-Saving Art of Holocaust Survivor Trudie Strobel, Prospect Park Books, $35).  Savin talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about the delicate process of excavating Strobel’s harrowing past and how her art was a way of coming to terms with it.

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May 31, 2020 by

Three Characters, Three Storylines, and Three Time Periods

The Book Of V (Henry Holt, $27.99) is nothing if not ambitious—three main characters, three storylines and three wildly divergent time periods—and yet novelist Anna Solomon manages to weave all three together with an effortlessness that belies the profound nature of her fictional probing. She talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about why Esther and Vashti continue to be subjects of endless speculation and fascination, and what their stories can teach us today.  

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May 30, 2020 by

A Debut Novel About Family

When La La Fine is eight, her mother disappears, and her father, Zev, starts taking her with him to work. Unfortunately, Zev’s work is part-time locksmith, part-time burglar. Fifteen years later, when Zev gets arrested, La La quits veterinary school to raise money for his legal defense the only way she knows how—robbing houses. What constitutes a good mother? A good father? A good daughter? A normal life? These are questions posed by R.L. Maizes in her compelling debut novel Other People’s Pets (Celadon Book, $26.99).

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May 20, 2020 by

Embracing “Quasi-Motherhood” With Humor and Empathy

Dani Alpert is one funny lady, and like many comics, she uses her life as a prime source for her material.  After falling for a divorced dad of two, she struggles to find a way to embrace the offspring she claims never to have wanted.  Fast forward to the break-up with said boyfriend, which comes with an unseen punch—by this time, she loves the kids and wants to keep them in her life. 

Alpert talks to Fiction Editor Yona Zeldis McDonough about her new memoir, The Girlfriend Mom, in which she gives us the skinny on how she does just that—and what she learns along the way. 

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