THE SHIKSA by Barbara Bartlett


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First-novelist Bartlett weaves a philosophical, poetry-quoting tale about the ratified plight of a rich, provincial Catholic girl who grows up to be a ""shiksa""--a fine-spun Grace Kelly addicted to playing martyr to brilliant, abusive Jewish men. Blond, blue-eyed Katherine Winterhaus is the adored daughter of Douglas and Emily, rich, genteel Catholics of Rochester, N.Y. Though enamored of her religion as a tot, at age ten she falls in love with a Jew, a warm, witty lawyer. Even this innocent infatuation horrifies her parents. As she grows, she learns that the virulent anti-Semitism of her parents is more than religious prejudice or small-town snobbery and ignorance: it's a burning rage whose burning source is Sol Levant, an inventor who fleeced her father in business and broke his spirit. Bright Katherine chafes under the confines of convent schools, then Manhattanville College. The bitter breakup of a subsequent marriage to a cold, tippling arch-Wasp, Christopher Kellog, sends her to L.A.--ripe for the charms of dark, brilliant Jed Bernard, a legendary Hollywood writer with the looks of a Semitic Cap/Grant. It takes two years for her to walk away from their painful affair of ""interlocking neurosis""; but Jed proves to be a mensch, and with the aid of his humor and loyalty, she weathers another Jewish lover--only to conclude (with the glimmerings of love for yet another Jew) that she is a true shiksa, forever attracting and attracted to the dark, funny, impossible ""forbidden fruit."" A myopic dance of stereotypes that's unfortunately not raised to the level of the funny, glamorous, or alluring even by Bartlett's elegant prose. A book that truly makes a Masada out of a molehill.

Pub Date: Nov. 30th, 1987
Publisher: Morrow