Fiction
Wed, 09/15/2010
Jewish Week Book Critic
New fiction from David Grossman
New fiction from David Grossman

As in her previous acclaimed novels, Nicole Krauss’ subject in “Great House” (Norton, October), is memory. Her new book unfolds mysteries through four narrators, all of whom are linked by an imposing wooden desk with lots of drawers and even more secrets. At different times, the desk is in the home of an American novelist, a Chilean poet who disappears, a professor in England and a brother and sister in Jerusalem. The father of the Jerusalem siblings is a renowned antiques dealer intent on finding the stolen pieces from his father’s study in Budapest, broken into by the Nazis in 1944. With originality, Krauss writes of loss, and the intertwining of identity and memory.

“To the End of the Land” by David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen (Knopf, September), is an anti-war novel with an insistence that peace is possible. Grossman, whose own son was killed during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, tells of an Israeli mother whose soldier son reenlists in the army – she too leaves home and sets out on a long walk with an old love to avoid hearing any bad news. In this powerful and unforgettable novel, she tells the story of her life and her son’s, very much a story of the deep complexity of Israeli life.

“A Curable Romantic” by Joseph Skibell (Algonquin, September) is smart and funny; this is Jewish magical realism grounded in tradition. Married twice by the time he is 12, Jakob Sammelsohn makes his way from a Polish shtetl to cultured Vienna to the Warsaw ghetto, moving through Jewish history.

Cynthia Ozick spins Henry James’s novel “The Ambassadors” anew – and in reverse, as though creating a photographic negative of the original. “Foreign Bodies” is vintage Ozick — a beautifully written, compelling story of a family and its particular entanglements, estrangements and reconciliation.

“Eden” by Yael Hedaya (Metropolitan Books, November) is set in a rural community in Israel, hardly an Eden-like paradise. The head writer for the Israeli television series “In Treatment,” Hedaya has written a richly textured contemporary family story.

Philip Roth returns again to Newark, N.J., in his latest novel, “Nemesis” (Houghton Mifflin, October), set during World War II when a polio epidemic threatened the city. Again for Roth, this is a story about loss.

“Cut Throat Dog” by Joshua Sobol, translated by Dalya Blu (Melville House, October) is a literary suspense story dealing with a former Mossad agent and his midlife crisis — and the ongoing crisis of the Middle East. It is the English-language debut of an Israeli playwright and novelist.

A first novel, “Russian Winter” by Daphne Kalotay (Harper, September) is the tale of a ballet dancer, now an older woman, set in the final years of Stalin’s regime. The novel incorporates letters, poetry and diaries, linking a set of jewels and Russian history.

“The Last Jewish Virgin” by Janice Eidus (Red Hen Press, November) recasts the vampire myth in contemporary New York City, with overtones of humor.
Zeruya Shalev is an acclaimed and bestselling author in Israel; “Thera” (Toby Press, November) is is her third novel to appear in English. Here, an archaeologist develops an intriguing theory connecting a volcanic blast and the biblical Ten Plagues. The novel relates the relationships she carves out in her own life.