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The Singing Fire

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  209 ratings  ·  27 reviews
With vivid prose and magical realism, Lilian Nattel brings another remarkable novel set in a historic Jewish community--the bustling alleys of London's East End in the late nineteenth century--to life.

Nehama, a young Jewish woman, leaves her family and comes to London to fulfill dreams of independence. But a girl on her own who doesn't speak English is an easy target and N
Paperback, 321 pages
Published October 1st 2005 by Scribner Book Company (first published November 2003)
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Average rating 3.35  · 
Rating details
 ·  209 ratings  ·  27 reviews

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Jul 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
I love when a book is better than I expect. The language was beautiful, the characters were surprising, and the fantastical elements were well done.
Jun 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
In this work of historical fiction, Nattel traces the lives of two different Jewish women who both run away by themselves to London in the late 19th century when they are still in their teens. Once there, they build lives for themselves despite the limitations of their circumstances and the hardships they have to face. This book is haunted by friendly ghosts and terrible villians, but Nattel weaves the story into a strong whole that does not give way to sentimentality or easy solutions. Her desc ...more
Marleen Meuleman
Zeer verwarrend geschreven en daardoor vond ik dit boek minder mooi.
Peggy Walt
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
A novel that I didn't want to put down. Vivid descriptions of Jewish life in London (and also in the "Old Country) at the turn of the century. The book centres on two women and the child who unites them. My only criticism is that all the female characters share a similar way of escaping their harsh realities (and one is particularly brutal) through a dream-like state of denial - that became somewhat repetitive. However, a fascinating use of a female ghost who can only be seen by some of the char ...more
Jane Glen
Sep 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I think the somewhat choppy style reflects well the choppiness of the two women's lives depicted. The beginning was very raw as a young Jewish woman coming into London is immediately lured into prostitution. Cruel and poignant, she eventually escapes and helps another young woman who is on the verge of the same fate. Their lives continue to intertwine in this interesting novel. ...more
Feriel Temmar
Oct 21, 2012 rated it liked it
I would have loved an extra chapter, one where the two women would see each other across the fire. One where we find out Jacob's reaction...

Can't say more without giving something away...

Very powerful book, found out so much about London at that time and so much about jewish immigrants in London at the turn of the century.

Ruth Jalfon
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
set in late-nineteenth century east-end jewish London. Great descriptions although can get rather repetitive as you go through the book. Characters nicely drawn and believable. Interesting to read about environment of my great-grandparents' time. Being from London I recognise the places and there are some true events thrown in to make it more interesting historically. ...more
Diana Petty-stone
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A good book with lots of emotions and the struggle of Jews in London.
Janine Rubens
Jan 06, 2020 rated it did not like it
Don’t waste your time.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Lost the book, almost done!

Lyrical at times, liked the use of ghosts.
Dec 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
I needed a Jewish tour guide when reading this book.
It's the story of two separate teenage girls in Russia in 1875 who both find their family situations untenable so they run away to London, only to discover that unaccompanied teenage girls in London are fair game. They start to pull themselves up from the gutter, meet each other and live together in London for a short while, then one runs away again in hopes of bettering their lives, only to find things can go south again.

It seemed that every s
Cindy Weatherford
I almost quit reading this book about 1/4 of the way through because of some sexual references that were a little too graphic for me. Thankfully they weren't in the latter chapters. I enjoyed the story. It was written in a style that was completely different from anything I've ever read before. I can't say I would recommend it because of the sexual references. ...more
Jun 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
This wasn't as good as her first novel, but enjoyable. Her decision to jump between two main characters was working well at first but wound up a little burdensome later on. Overall, you're life won't be lessened if you fail to read this one. ...more
Galen Miller
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A lovely read. So many wonderful quotes as you follow two lives of immigrant women through fin de siecle London. Heavy in Jewish culture and tradition. "Holidays exist that mortifications, insult, and loneliness may have their moment." ...more
Aug 01, 2011 added it
2008- This book started off promising, and I liked the amount of detail used throughout. My main grip was the plot sorta meandered....also did not like the ending.
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2-and-1-2-stars
Oct 11, 2010 rated it liked it
Interesting story of two Jewish immigrant women who settle in London in the 1880's. ...more
Mar 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really interested look at women and Jews in England in the 1880s.
Krishnendra Sanyal
Sep 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Splendid piece of literature. Writing style is just awesome, albeit a bit over-descriptive. Reminded me of the Indian novel Her Resurrection.
Aug 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
More like 2.5. The book started off fairly strong and then crashed and burned around the tutor seduction part. A non-ending end, which is my biggest pet peeve in a novel.
Claudia Stewart
Apr 15, 2015 rated it liked it
A good read well written, but could have been a bit more descriptive. The story line was quite good and I enjoyed it.
Aug 10, 2013 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed it though there was a theme throughout the book that I never did understand how it fit in...but it was a good book.

Apr 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Really fascinating first half, then it kind of lost steam for me.
Debra B.
rated it liked it
May 12, 2012
rated it liked it
Nov 08, 2013
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Dec 09, 2009
rated it did not like it
Mar 03, 2014
rated it it was amazing
May 19, 2013
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Jewish Period Drama: London, Jewish, speculative fiction 1 4 May 30, 2018 02:42PM  

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Lilian Nattel's latest book is Girl at the Edge of Sky, a historical novel about real life heroine Lily Litvyak, who was a WW2 fighter pilot. Like her, Lilian was called "Lily" and was shorter than the other kids. Lilian was born in Montreal and decided to be a writer at the age of 10 when she realized that not all writers were dead. Later, she lived in a Toronto garret and temporarily became an a ...more

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