August 17, 2009

The Singing Fire by Lillian Nattel

The Singing Fire: A Novel by Lillian Nattel: I had very much enjoyed her first novel, The River Midnight but this one didn't grab me.

Set in the Yiddish ghetto of Victorian London, the novel traces the lives of two immigrant women, both victims of oppressive male dominance, sometimes in the form of a friendship-feigning pimp, sometimes in the form of a cruel step-father, or the usurious tutor. Children are conceived, miscarried, abandoned, claimed and cherished. One woman escapes the ghetto into a cold marriage, one escapes a cold marriage, but not the ghetto.

Nattel carefully draws the setting and details it richly. I may have read too much Anne Perry to fully appreciate the care with which Nattel presents Victorian-era poverty. Or perhaps I am weary of the 'most men are bad' theme. Nattel is a good author and I am disposed to like her work, this one just didn't do it for me.

Have you read it? What do you think?



1 comment:

  1. The Singing Fire is the first Lilian Nattel novel I have read. I finished it only because it will be discussed at my book group.

    I found that the author made many interesting points of life in the late 19th Century London, especially life of Jews during this period and time. The characters, however, didn't engage me. I found the book somewhat disjointed, jumping from street to street within a page or two, and with each jump changing the focus of the novel.

    The interesting twist to this novel is that it is set in London. This story has been told in may permutations of Jewish immigrant life in New York, but this is the first book I have read about the London immigrant experience.


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