Address Unknown is a small book, just 64 pages, but it packs a powerful punch. First published in America in 1938 it was one of the first books of fic...moreAddress Unknown is a small book, just 64 pages, but it packs a powerful punch. First published in America in 1938 it was one of the first books of fiction to depict the rising Nazi menace.
Max Eisentstein and Martin Schulse are long time business partners in America. Martin has decided to return to Germany with his family. Through a series of letters we learn how Martin slowly turns his back on everyone he knows as he becomes enthralled with the Nazi party. When Max asks a desperate favor of Martin he is shocked by a betrayal; Max then constructs a clever and stunning revenge.
I read the last series of letter over several times, making sure I understood what had happened. Deeply unsettling it does offer a lot of food for thought.
I was intrigued by the title of this book, the question “Why is this night different from all other nights” is a key part of the Passover Seder. When...moreI was intrigued by the title of this book, the question “Why is this night different from all other nights” is a key part of the Passover Seder. When reading the description and knowing it was set during the Civil War I was doubly intrigued and so I bought the book and I am very glad I did.
Jacob Rappaport is a Jewish young man living in NYC. It is the start of the War Between the States and to escape an arranged marriage Jacob joins the Union Army. He is soon drafted into doing espionage when it is learned that his Uncle is involved with Judah Benjamin, Vice President of the Confederacy and also Jewish. Asked to perform an unspeakable act Jacob takes the path of least resistance. Being a good little soldier he is soon given another task; befriend, woo and marry a young Jewish woman who is suspected of being a spy for the South. Jacob agrees to this plan, but falls in love with the woman he is supposed to betray.
This book presented many questions about ethics, morality, love, honor, acceptance, assimilation and redemption to name a few. It was filled with the conflicts experienced within families during the war, when brothers often turned on each other. It doesn’t present the characters as all good or all bad but as real people dealing with emotional conflict as the world around them fell apart.
There were a great many things I really liked about this book. The character of Jacob started out being almost unlikeable in his unquestioning following of orders. When he meets Genie and falls in love you think you know where the story is going, but the author throws us a curve and we go down another path. Little by little we watch Jacob grow and change as he seeks forgiveness for his many “crimes”. The background of the many Jewish people who fought on both sides of the war was fascinating. I learned so much about Civil War history that I knew nothing about. I loved the writing and really came to care about the many characters in the book. I appreciated the juxtaposition of real historical characters and the fictional; it made Jacob’s story even more believable.
The one scene that has stuck with me throughout (not a spoiler) is when Jacob celebrates Passover, the retelling of the Jew’s freedom from the slavery of Pharaoh. Throughout this dinner, celebrated in the home of his Southern uncle, Jacob and the guests are served by slaves. The incongruity is inescapable.
If you are looking for a Civil War story told from a completely different perspective you will find it in this though provoking narrative.(less)
A small and elegant gem of a novella. A young mute boy with a parrot on his shoulder crosses paths with an elderly and rather crotchety bee keeper, wh...moreA small and elegant gem of a novella. A young mute boy with a parrot on his shoulder crosses paths with an elderly and rather crotchety bee keeper, whose name we never learn, but appears to be a retired Sherlock Holmes. We learn that the boy is a Jewish refugee staying with a local family. What is the meaning of the numbers the parrot repeats over and over? Why would someone kill a member of the boarding home where the child is staying, and kidnap the parrot? Drawn into one last case by the baffled constables, Holmes is wonderfully imagined as an old and frail man, entranced by the idea of solving one last case. The story is beautifully written; I especially enjoyed the chapter told in the bird’s voice. One is left with a feeling of melancholy after reading the last page, but also a sense of a few hours well spent reading a lovely, if slight, story.(less)