An epic love story in the Jewish ghetto spans generations under Germanic oppression in Fertig’s historical fiction debut.
In the Breslau ghetto, merchants, farmers, rabbis, revolutionaries, tailors, prostitutes and more weave complicated webs of love, duty and allegiance. The novel follows three generations as a vast, cruel governing body suppresses every Jewish cry for liberation. Children are born, reach maturity, fall in love, find themselves and their professions, have their own children, and then these children in turn mature and find their own paths. Rabbis battle an influx of new, youthful interpretations of Judaism, couples try bitterly to exercise their forbidden love, lawyers cheat poor clients, prisoners face unjust containment. It’s the French Revolution—and the promise of religious equality—that eventually transforms some of these Breslau men into soldiers, and as the war wages on, the inhabitants of the Jewish ghetto struggle against the rolling tides of nations. Fertig’s novel is a sweeping Jewish love story couched in revolution, and it is written with an apt power and elegance. The book is a contained epic; the small actions of grandfathers hold weighty consequences for grandsons decades later, and there is a sense of life continually clashing into itself, of actions influencing other actions over the span of years. The narrative sometimes loses focus with its large cast of scantily described characters and at times disorients with large, unmarked jumps in time and space. The novel whittles an enormous historical event to the size of singular moments—a couple hiding at night in a barn, a boy discovering manhood in a brothel, a wedding ring given to multiple brides—to riveting effect.
An intimate, compassionate work of historical fiction.