by Claire Rayner ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 1, 1982
Rayner, author of the multi-volume Lackland dynasty saga, now arrives with a stout, English-Jewish family-tree planting--and the roots go back to first-century Jerusalem, where two women, Susannah and Tamar, in grief and bitterness after the destruction of the Temple, exchange children. In the first dozen chapters, then, Rayner moves their descendants--unaware of the ancient link, of course--through centuries of plenty, persecution, and assimilation . . . up to 1885 England, where the intermarried Lammecks and Damonts live in silky West End affluence, embarrassed by such new East End emigrants as the Lazars from Russia. So, when blue-eyed, red-haired Hannah Lazar, daughter of broke, bitter Nathan, is taken into the household of childless Mrs. Emmanuel Lammeck, there's class prejudice and hostility galore. Nonetheless, Hannah marries Lammeck nephew Daniel after she's been dismissed from the house (for insulting an amorous Edward VII). And the marriage is happy till Daniel is sent to manage the family business in China: forced to face his own corrosive weaknesses, he commits suicide--so Hannah will have to be coaxed through the hard times ahead by Uncle Alex Lazar, a gutsy East Ender with an armory of Yiddishisms. Eventually, then, Hannah starts a high-style fashion biz; romance re-blooms, guiltily, since it's now with Daniel's brother Peter (who's married to Hannah's best friend Judith); but Peter is killed in WW I, while Judith dies of the flu--and Hannah's left to care for her own daughter Marie and Peter's little son Charles. Has Hannah finished her love/hate affair with the Lammecks, then? Not bloody likely. Years later, at 38, she marries nice Marcus Lammeck, who dies in a WW II air raid--while Marie and Judaism scholar Charles cause no end of misery: unsuitable marriages, drugs, death from overdoses and TB. But finally, Marie's daughter Lee and her child, named Susannah Tamar, will take off for Jerusalem, completing the 2000-year cycle. Except for that sketchy overview of the diaspora in the opening section: the usual woe-to-dough-and-back-to-woe saga story, lavishly dished up by a generous pro--though without as many charming, gritty English-Jewish details as other recent novels have provided.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1982
Page Count: -
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1982
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