May June 2010

Naomi Alderman’s novel Disobedience may not have been universally liked but it certainly gave rise to a lively discussion at our last book club meeting. Many agreed that the descriptions of a tight knit British Orthodox Jewish community were authentic and recognizable, so much so that some wondered whether the novel would be accessible to a non-Jewish audience. Most present felt that Alderman had raised a range of interesting issues, but that once raised, these were not really explored in great depth. At the point where the book became most compelling, the author chose to resolve all the issues with a difficult to believe ‘Hollywood style’ ending. Our overall assessment: good in parts with some wonderful descriptions and some humorous episodes; thought-provoking but ultimately disappointing, particularly the ending.

brick_laneaAs mentioned on the evening, for those who enjoyed the subject matter of this book (i.e. closed communities in the context of multi-cultural Britain) you will probably like reading Brick Lane by Monica Ali, a novel set in a Bangladeshi community in London. For something lighter and quirkier try The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama, it’s about Hindus and Muslims, love and marriage AND more recipes all set in India.

Our forthcoming meeting on July 7th at 8 pm will be to discuss Brodeck’s Report by Philippe Claudel. Here is a synopsis of the book, a brief biographical note on the author, three book reviews and news that Claudel recently won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for Brodeck’s Report.

brodecks_reportReturning to Alsace-Lorraine at the end of the Second World War after two years in a concentration camp, Brodeck, a meek surveyor of flora and fauna, is commissioned to write a report of how people in his village came to murder a travelling artist who had settled in there, a man they called only the Anderer (the “Other”). This beautifully composed Kafkaesque fable, by the writer and director of the Bafta-winning film I’ve Loved You So Long, offers a sensitive meditation on persecution and brutality. Though the fable-like depiction of pogroms and concentration camps can feel strangely sanitised, Claudel’s narrative of violence lurking below the surface of a small community is enchanting.

  • Robert Collins
  • The Observer, Sunday 24 January 2010

Philippe Claudel

philippe_claudelaPhilippe Claudel (born February 2, 1962, Dombasle-sur-Meurthe, Meurthe-et-Moselle) is a French writer and film director. His most famous work to date is the novel Les Âmes grises (Grey Souls), which won the prix Renaudot award in France, was shortlisted for the American Gumshoe Award, and won Sweden’s Martin Beck Award. Brodeck’s Report was short listed for the Prix Goncourt (France’s top literary award) in 2007 and won the Independent Foreign Fiction prize in 2010. In addition to his writing, Claudel is a Professor of Literature at the University of Nancy. He directed the 2008 film I’ve Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t’aime) starring Kristin Scott Thomas which won the 2009 BAFTA for best film not in English.

Book reviews:

Claudel wins Independent Foreign Fiction Prize:


Auschwitz and death march survivor Thomas Buergenthal received a standing ovation at this year’s Hay Festival. Buergenthal who is a judge at the International Court of Justice in the Hague is author of the memoir A Lucky Child. The links below give an account of his appearance at the Hay Festival and a review of his book.

Barbara Kingsolver, best selling author of the hugely popular Poisonwood Bible (definitely a title that I would put on our recommended list) has won this year’s Orange Prize for her novel The Lacuna. The short list for the prize included Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize winner Wolf Hall, our choice for discussion in August. The link below is to a podcast discussion of this year’s Orange Prize winner and of some of the other contenders for the prize. Click the link to listen to an interesting discussion.


Little Altars Everywhere Rebecca Wells
Engleby Sebastian Faulks
The Butcher’s Theatre Jonathan Kellerman
Precious Time Erica James
The Other Hand Chris Cleave
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox Maggie O’Farrell
Unaccustomed Earth Jhumpa Lahiri
The Plot Against America Philip Roth
The Assault Harry Mulisch
The Reluctant Fundamentalist Moshin Hamid
The White Tiger Aravind Adiga
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter Kim Edwards
Brazzaville Beach William Boyd
Solving the Palestinian Problem Ben G de Bono
Any books by Naomi Ragen e.g. The Covenant

The Rabbi’s Daughter: a true story of sex, drugs and Orthodoxy Reva Mann

Dates for your diary:

Wednesday 25th August to discuss Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Wednesday 6th October to discuss Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family’s Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World by Lucette Lagnado

For any queries about the book club please contact Julia Segar or Andrea Nicholls by email or through the shul office.