THE FERTILE PLAIN by Esther Salaman


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On the eve of the Russian Revolution, an optimistic tension prevailed. Even in Jewish homes where the threat of death and darkness was dinned by the reality of the pogroms, the Beiliss trial, streetfights, conviction in the imminent dawn of a better world was strong. Through her autobiographical description of childhood and young womanhood, Mrs. Salaman conveys the feelings of a middle class, Jews and Gentiles included, concerning the electric rumblings of the Russian 1900's. She writes of Rissele -- her family, friends, school and neighbors -- a Jewish child, who identifies herself strongly with her Jewish heritage and at the same time is influenced by her close friendships with Gentiles. She emerges as a member of the intelligentsia, endorsing political change. The book is overburdened with details of adolescent awakening, trivial events and irrelevant musings. Its value lies in the recreation of the immediacy and vitality of the times as felt by real people, and not in the realm of history or biography. There is a certain poetry as she rebuilds her child's world composed of her mother, father, and Baba (grandmother) and restores the problems peculiar to her family and to Jews in general...the ancient insecurity, ethnic unity, family closeness.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1957
Publisher: Abelard Schuman