CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO by Israel Zangwill

CHILDREN OF THE GHETTO

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A long-overdue reissue restores to print an 1892 novel that is generally acknowledged as one of the earliest and finest works of Anglo-Jewish fiction. A scholarly and informative Introduction by editor Rochelson capably summarizes the life and influence of its once-famous author (18641926) as fiction writer, journalist, playwright, and political activist. Published both in Zangwill's native England (he was a second-generation Jew of Latvian and Polish heritage) and in America as the initial offering of the Jewish Publication Society, Children of the Ghetto--the author's third book of fiction--was an instant critical and popular success. Its exhaustively detailed portrayal of social, economic, and marital strife in London's Whitechapel Ghetto (where Zangwill was born) brings to vivid life an impressive gallery of believably thoughtful characters--most notably those torn between the new science and theology of the ending century and the tradition-bound world of their fathers. Prominent among Zangwill's several protagonists are Hannah Jacobs, who sacrifices her own happiness to obey her parents' beliefs; Esther Ansell, a troubled freethinker who will fulfill her intellectual ambitions only by writing in the guise of a male author; and Raphael Leon and Joseph Strelitsky, each of whom is both embittered and empowered by the tension between his commitment to orthodoxy and his conviction that the world is changing in ways his elders' wisdom can't comprehend. The frequent objection to the comparatively undramatic ``Book Two: Grandchildren of the Ghetto''- -that it amounts to little more than Zionist propaganda--has merit; yet even in its flatly argumentative pages, the resolutions of its characters' moral dilemmas are presented with passionate force. And few have ever denied that the racy color and vitality of its first half (``Book One: Children of the Ghetto'') make this one of the liveliest novels of its period. An incomparable portrait of a culture in transition--and a classic that truly deserves to be rediscovered and remembered.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8143-2593-9
Page count: 523pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1998