Posts Tagged ‘The Disappearing Dowry’

Worth waiting for

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

I feel like I’ve been looking forward to this one for a very long time, and thankfully it didn’t disappoint.

Cover of The Ruby Spy Ring71. The Ruby Spy Ring by Libi Astaire

We’re several months after the events of The Disappearing Dowry, and our narrator Rebecca Lyon’s elder sister Hannah is happily married and thus out of the parental home, leaving Rebecca with the burden of trying to be a role model for the younger siblings, while missing Harriet Franks, her best friend, whose family have moved from the vicinity of the Great Synagogue to the more expensive and fashionable Mayfair. Seeing the growing stress levels among his children, and Rebecca in particular, Mr Lyon suggests she goes to visit Harriet for a fortnight to lift her spirits. On the first night of the visit the Franks family take her with them to an exhibition, which is the start of some unfortunate events for the family, requiring the investigative talents of Mr Ezra Melamed, with Rebecca as an interested observer and would-be participant.

The history and culture seems accurate, with the narrative voice strong and plausible, and the characters distinct and consistent with the previous book. The Jewish references are clearly but largely unobtrusively explained, so I’d recommend this to anyone interested in historical fiction (especially of Regency England), or mysteries, or tales of Jewish communities. As a pocket-size paperback it’s cheaper than most of the Jewish novels, but is very nicely produced nonetheless. Highly recommended. I hope there are more to come!

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Rereading mysteries

Friday, 20 August 2010

NaBloPoMo August logoSo, how is rereading mysteries different from rereading anything else? I know some wouldn’t see the point, since you already know the denouement; others would go straight back (with a decent mystery) and reread to find the clues they had missed or the red herrings they didn’t. After the second time through, though, is it any different from rereading any other novel, even any other book?

You already know I’m a rereader, so can guess that I have no problem going back to a well-written mystery. I enjoy both picking up on things, and reminding myself of the story and sequence.

24. The Disappearing Dowry by Libi Astaire

As I’ve said here before, this is a well-written and well-researched historical mystery, set in early 19th century London among the Jewish community. It seems clear enough to be enjoyable both by those who know Jewish law and custom well, and those who don’t at all, and it uses the narrative voice of a sheltered teenage girl cozily but not cloyingly. I have been looking for the sequel since January (I emailed the publishers last Autumn to find out when it’d be out, and that’s what they said then), but the bookshops don’t have it listed or available yet, annoyingly, so perhaps I should try the publishers again…

It’s Erev Shabbat

Friday, 6 November 2009

It seems appropriate that I have a short selection of Jewish books to write about today, when I have to hurry and then get ready for Shabbat/Shabbos (and no, I amn’t entirely consistent about which of those I use).

48. With This Ring by Sarah Kisner

Hm, does my getting frustrated by the characters in a book perhaps say more for the book than I generally assume it does? When I get annoyed at them not taking the obvious step that would solve their problems (like family members actually talking to each other or (in the Jewish novels) asking their Rabbi for advice) is that just them behaving as real people do, much as we shouldn’t? Certainly (as I’m noticing again in Alice Adams, that I’m currently listening to (not this minute, as I couldn’t concentrate on both) by Booth Tarkington), it’s when the protagonists fall down in these basic areas, and/or in their care or attitude towards others, that I find myself disliking the main characters. And perhaps it is me. Perhaps the old adage is right, in that we see the faults in others that we struggle with ourselves (although I think I do see some faults that aren’t mine too).

So not a bad novel, just characters I was neither relating nor aspiring to. I was a bit put off by the title, as well, (as were others I spoke to about the book). It’s largely about a father in trouble in the diamond trade, and a daughter getting used to putting her marriage first, so I can see why they used the phrase, but it jars.

(Ooh look, I did tell you what the book is actually about! I’ve had several verbal comments that I should do that more often on the blog, rather than focussing so much on my own reactions to the book, which often have more to do with the themes than the content. Thoughts, please?)

49. The Disappearing Dowry by Libi Astaire

I really enjoyed this short historical mystery. Set in Regency England, it’s apparently the first in a series, and I’m looking forward to the rest. It seems well researched, without shoving the research down the reader’s throat (always a balance historical novels need to be wary of). I amn’t someone who seeks out mysteries as a genre, but I enjoy them sometimes, when well put together. The book is told in first person narrative by a likeable character (which as above is important to me).

Zahav Press appear to be trying to take small paperbacks into the Jewish market, and if they’re going to be this good I’m all for it! (This book was one I kept to travel with, so I’m pretty sure it’s misplaced on the list chronologically, but nevermind that. It didn’t last long, but was easy to fit into hand luggage.)

50. The Secret of Jewish Femininity by Tehilla Abramov

Well written, clear in its guidance and not-overly cloying in its encouragement. It was highly recommended to me, and I can see why. Definitely a topic to learn with a qualified teacher, however, with this as a textbook, rather than only from the book (and the book says the same).

Repeating the question from above: Would blog readers prefer I say more about the content of the book as a regular thing, rather than focussing on my reaction(s) to it? (Not promising to change, but I’d be interested.)