Books by Brian Murdoch

MALKA by Mirjam Pressler
Released: May 1, 2003

A wrenching Holocaust story about flight, fear, and a child left alone. In 1943, Dr. Hannah Mai and her two daughters flee Lawoczne, Poland, trying to get across the Hungarian border. Minna, 17, is able to manage the brutal physical trek, but seven-year-old Malka becomes ill. Her fever and sores prompt Hannah's gut-wrenching decision to leave Malka behind with Jews who promise to care for her. Unexpectedly abandoned, however, Malka spends four months on her own, ending up back in Poland. Occasionally she is cared for, but more often she wanders deserted ghettos alone, hiding in coal chutes and scavenging for scraps of food. Only luck and her blond (though filthy) hair keep her alive. Malka's survival extracts a grim psychological toll. Although concentration camps are never seen, the trauma of this war is profoundly documented in the shattering reunion between Malka and Hannah, who has dared to re-enter Poland in search of her daughter. Heartbreaking historical fiction based loosely on the real Malka Mai's life, this belongs with the best Holocaust literature. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 12+)Read full book review >
SHYLOCK’S DAUGHTER by Mirjam Pressler
Released: June 1, 2001

In this turgid elaboration of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, Pressler (Anne Frank: A Hidden Life, 2000, etc.) subordinates the story's events both to a rich re-creation of the texture of life in the Venetian ghetto and to a series of overwrought reveries in which her unappealing cast members cast light on their various character flaws. Shylock is the Tragic Hero here, losing both loving wife and devoted housekeeper to consumption, his vain, shallow daughter Jessica to a gold-digging Christian husband, and, finally, his entire estate thanks to an irrational, revenge-driven insistence on collecting that pound of flesh from a Christian debtor. The author adds several new characters, notably Dalilah, a young orphan taken in to be Jessica's companion/servant. After more than ten years of being the passive, dutiful one, Dalilah suddenly displays enough gumption at the end—after Shylock abandons her—skipping town rather than be forcibly baptized, to dress as a boy and set out for the Levant. This prompts translator Murdoch, in a long, analytical afterword, to argue that Dalilah's the central character here; but it's Pressler's depiction of the spirit and practices of Venice's Jewish community that emerges most vividly, and will stay with readers longest—at least those who can finish it. (Fiction. 12-15)Read full book review >