Pocket Books £7.99
Songs for the Butcher's Daughter, By Peter Manseau
Itsik Malpesh, a Jew born in turn-of-the-century Russia, is four years old when the butcher's daughter saves his life during a pogrom. (Or so he's told. Much later in the story, we hear the butcher's daughter's side of things.) As a child, he works in a goose-down factory, until he's press-ganged into the Russian army. Escaping, he finds refuge in Odessa, where he enjoys a couple of peaceful years before being smuggled to the US in a trunk, where he becomes a poet, writing in Yiddish. After that, the hectic pace of Peter Manseau's novel slows a little, but still to come are love affairs, unexpected reunions and a murder.
The narrative is intercut with notes from the translator of these memoirs, who meets Malpesh when the poet is a nonagenarian. The lives of Jewish communities in early 20th-century Russia and America are so vividly realised, I assumed that the author must be Jewish; but, like his fictional translator, Manseau is actually a Yiddish-speaking Catholic. It's a picaresque novel with an epic sweep, containing tragedy, comedy and a huge love of life.
Arts & Ents blogs
Let's talk book blurbs, those quotes you get, usually from other writers, that are meant to entice y...
Fela Kuti, Jewish food and The Great Gatsby are just some of the reasons why the rainy weather ahead...
Sat in a hotel lobby amidst a music conference in Aarhus around 4am in is a great way to argue, and ...
- 1 Heading for America? Prepare for the longest US immigration queues ever
- 2 Amir Khan interview: 'One second could end my boxing career'
- 3 Boxing: Purdy set to join long list of British fighters who take the money – and then the beating
- 4 Dan Stevens after Downton Abbey: The erstwhile Matthew Crawley is back in period costume
- 5 Join Ryanair! See the world! But we'll only pay you for nine months a year
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.