Thursday, June 11, 2009
The Disappearing Dowry
Congratulations to Book of Life Facebook fan Rick Sternberg of Pittsburgh, PA, who has won our book giveaway (held in celebration of reaching 150 Facebook fans). Rick works at the Community Day School in Pittsburgh and will be donating the book to the school library. We'll hold another drawing when we reach 200 Facebook fans, so if you haven't become a fan yet, do it now!
Rick will be receiving a copy of The Disappearing Dowry: An Ezra Melamed Mystery by Libi Astaire (Zahav Press). I very much enjoyed this historical novel. When I first heard that it was written "in the style of Jane Austen" I admit I was worried: books written in a famous author's style have so much to live up to and can easily fall short. However, this book feels like a loving tribute to Austen rather than a cheap imitation, and avoids becoming an Austen remake by embracing the "cozy" mystery genre as well.
What really sets the book apart is its portrayal of Jewish life in 19th century England. We see an active Jewish community, proud of its heritage yet comfortably British, but also aware of its outsider status. There are few books that explore this setting in a Jewish context, and I found it very refreshing.
I also found it quite refreshing that anti-Semitism was not a strong theme in this book. It would have been so easy for the author to use anti-Semitism as motive for the mystery's central crime. The theme of prejudice dominates much of Jewish literature, and I feel that Libi Astaire breaks the mold by choosing not to follow that path.
I found The Disappearing Dowry to be a light and enjoyable read, one that frequently made me smile. It is written for adults but can easily be enjoyed by kids in middle and high school.
For an interview with author Libi Astaire, visit Barbara Bietz's blog, Jewish Books for Children.