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JBW Book Club

4 August 2014 - 4:27pm -- editor

JBW Book Club

Monday, August 4, 2014by JBW

The Jewish Book Week team spend each summer reading hundreds of books sent to us as submissions and suggestions for the next festival. Below, some of the team members let you know what they've been reading recently.


Nir Cohen, Festival Curator:

The Two Hotel Francforts by David Leavitt

Lisbon, 1940: a city close enough to the atrocities of the European battlefield but guarded by Salazar’s neutrality, it attracts those who are lucky and wealthy enough to flee. A chance meeting between two couples – one American, the other British-American – who are waiting to board a ship that will take them back to New York, brings to the surface secrets, madness and lust. In a plot full of twists and turns, David Leavitt revisits some of the themes he has explored throughout his career – including queer desire – while masterfully portraying a city where present squalour rivals past grandeur. In this liminal zone where everything might – and most probably will – happen, taboos are broken and lives are changed forever. Don’t let Leavitt’s accessible writing style fool you into thinking this is a light summer read; despite its page-turning quality the novel offers an intense analysis of emotions going wild and a world going wilder still.


Sarah Fairbairn, Festival Co-ordinator:

J by Howard Jacobson

This dystopian novel marks a change of pace for Howard Jacobson, who previously won the Booker Prize in 2010 for The Finkler Question. It doesn’t seem that the stylistic change has impacted his popularity with prize judges, though, as last week we discovered that J has been long-listed for this year’s award. It is indeed an interesting read. The world and characters of J are steeped in the kind of unspoken mystery you’d expect from a Gothic romance; it’s not only the great ‘what happened’ of history that’s in question but the very identities of the two lovers that are the anchors of the plot. There’s certainly mastery involved in Jacobson’s ingenious toying with the boundaries of fact and fiction, and with the book slated for publication in September I’m sure it will be topping many reading lists before the end of the year.


Lucy Silver, Festival Chair:

Fields of Exile by Nora Gold

This is a novel at once racy, pacy, thoughtful, topical and a compulsive page-turner. The setting is a Canadian campus at the time of the Second Intifada where Judith – a (very) sexually and politically energetic 32 year-old – is taking an MA in Social Work before returning to Israel, where she has spent the past decade. Judith, at once an ardent Israel-lover and anti-Occupation peace-activist, undergoes an intense existential crisis when her department’s anti-Israeli government policies escalate into a virulent form of all-encompassing anti-Israel sentiment. Next to read is Linda Grant’s Upstairs at the Party.