A masterful multigenerational reconstruction of a family’s life.



The experiences of a Sephardic family reveal tumultuous Jewish history.

Drawing on rich archives that yielded thousands of letters, telegrams, photographs, and legal and medical documents, two-time National Jewish Book Award winner Stein (History and Jewish Studies/UCLA; Extraterritorial Dreams: European Citizenship, Sephardi Jews, and the Ottoman Twentieth Century, 2016, etc.) offers a fascinating history of the Levy family, Sephardic Jews descended from Sa’adi Besalel Ashkenazi a-Levi, an influential publisher in 19th-century Salonica. The author’s incomparable sources, which include Sa’adi’s memoir (edited by Stein for publication in 2012), afforded her an intimate look at the challenges, quarrels, loves, and rivalries that beset Sa’adi and his wives, children, grandchildren, and their descendants as they experienced cataclysmic world events. Organized chronologically, each chapter focuses on a family member to explore their choices and opportunities in a changing world. Of Sa’adi’s 14 children, one daughter became a teacher; one son followed in his father’s footsteps as a newspaperman; another became a high-ranking official for the Jewish Community of Salonica. Yet another son, a gifted linguist and mathematician who rejected a teaching career in favor of law, rose to considerable stature as the Jewish Community’s “director of communal real estate,” a position that carried significant “legal, social, and economic authority.” Four emigrated to Sephardic communities abroad. Generations of the Levy family were caught in the maelstrom of wars. The First Balkan War, which obstructed daily life, led to the Ottomans’ loss of Salonica to Greece, an upheaval that the Levys saw as calamitous because it gave Greek Orthodox Christians preference to Jews. After World War I, a massive influx of Greeks reduced the once-prominent Jewish population to “a mere fifth” of the city’s residents. In 1943, Nazi persecution intensified in Salonica, and Stein uncovers harrowing evidence of one great-grandson of Sa’adi who became a Nazi henchman, for which he was executed. By the end of World War II, of 37 family members deported from France and Greece, only one survived. Still, the Levys endure, scattered throughout the world.

A masterful multigenerational reconstruction of a family’s life.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-18542-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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