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Children of the Ghetto
In its first appearance in 1892, Israel Zangwill's Children of the Ghetto created a sensation in both England and America, becoming the first Anglo-Jewish bestseller and establishing Zangwill as the literary voice of Anglo-Jewry. A novel set in late nineteenth-century London, Children of the Ghetto gave an inside look into an immigrant community that was almost as mysterio ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published 1998 by Wayne State University Press
(first published 1892)
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The edition I read of this book included both "Children of the Ghetto" and "Grandchildren of the Ghetto". The novel is primarily set in the Jewish ghetto of London's east end. Zangwill's portrayal of the ghetto is unsparing, yet empathetic. His characters are Dickensian and his development of setting reminds me of both Dickens and Betty Smith. Zangwill paints a portrait of London's Jewish ghetto of the late 1800's much as Smith did with early 20th century Brooklyn. The characters are, for the mo ...more
I love classic literature, and it was a wonderful change to read a Dickensian book that was filled entirely with Jewish characters. There were moments of real spark--scenes that were well written and believable. There were also many passages that were boring or contrived, or that felt caricatured and balanced out the believable characters... Overall I recommend it if you have an interest in a classic novel starring Jews that has both surprising grace and the usual dated parts.
Sep 23, 2015 Kat Steiner rated it liked it · review of another edition
I read this after hearing about it when the BBC proms did Fiddler on the Roof this summer. I was sort of expecting a series of disjointed vignettes of life in the Victorian London Jewish ghetto. And that's exactly what it is, for the most part. The stories are loosely linked together, there are hundreds of characters, lots of Yiddish and Hebrew that I didn't understand (there's a glossary at the back but it doesn't work well for Kindle readers), but for the most part moderately interesting.
This battered red bound hardcopy from 1893 fell into my lap from a thrift shop box, and I was delighted. I'd never heard of Israel Zangwill before, nor had I heard of his gentile alias "The Jewish Dickens." How could I resist such gem passages as: "He was a man of prodigious distorted mental activity. He had read omivoriously amid the vast stores of Hebrew literature, was a great authority on Cabbalah, understood astronomy, and still more astrology, was strong on finance, and could argue coheren ...more
The seminal narrative of juxtaposed lives of Jews in London's east end in the 1880s brings home the hardships of spilled soup-kitchen broth, the sorrow of elderly parents inventing rich relatives to avoid being a burden to their children, the despair of of families grieving the death of the son in whose education the meagre family wealth had been invested, and the tragi-comic implications of an accidental nuptial.
Encyclopedic in scope, Children of the Ghetto gives an intimate look at life in the East End of London at the turn of the century. A novel of Judaica, its detail may not appeal to all. In fact, it is the historical accuracy of Jewish life that makes it so interesting--like a Dickens novel with Jews.