Saturday, June 4, 2011

Review: Summer 5771 / 2011

Jewish Book World...

"The vicissitudes of World War II

are splendidly delineated in

this intriguing novel."

Spanning post-World War I through World
War II British history, 21 Aldgate follows
the Simon family through tenuous times that
forever forged and separated families. The story
begins when Clara Simon can no longer tolerate
her boss’s virulent anti-Semitism. She quits
her job and by chance winds up a week later
employed by the famous artist Paul Maze,
friend to Winston Churchill and other European
diplomats. Clara’s life irrevocably changes
as she begins to help Paul Maze write his painful
World War I memoir. Now Hitler’s ascendancy
threatens world peace anew, but Britain’s elite
think he’s a joke and don’t believe the rumors
spreading about concentration camps and the
disappearance of Jews, including Clara’s Aunt.
Paul and Clara travel to France to help
remember parts of Paul’s experiences as a field
artist for England and France and later to Germany
on a secret mission where Clara seeks to find her
Aunt. Both Clara and Paul experience firsthand
the fear felt by German Jews and protestors
at the hands of the secret police and Hitler’s
new soldiers. Paul and Clara then fall in love, a
relationship doomed to fail via their different
worlds. It is Clara who finally settles into a
deeper appreciation of what it means to be a
Jewish wife, mother, and citizen, a role that
strengthens her and her family through
the difficult days of bombing that lie ahead for
England. The fascination of this novel lies not
only in Clara’s ups and downs throughout this
process but the reactions and responses of her
family, representing the varied points of view
and adjustment or lack thereof amid England’s
besieged Jewish and secular community. The
vicissitudes of World War II are splendidly
delineated in this intriguing novel. DS

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