***** Reuben Sachs by Amy Levy a Persephone Book

Set in Victorian Bayswater, London.  This is a story about Anglo-Jewish families of the time, written by Amy Levy, referred to as the Jewish Jane Austen.  Although it seems these days that many writers are referenced as the something Jane Austin, but I digress.

It is about how little there is for a young woman to do except to marry well, and for an aspiring young man of promise to marry very well.

The main character is Reuben Sachs a beloved son and grandson of whom great things are expected.  He is a lawyer and now working for a local bi-election candidacy.  It is said of him –

He came straight across the room to old Solomon, a vivifying presence – Reuben Sachs, with his bad figure, awkward movements, and charming face, which wore tonight it’s air of greatest alertness.

He is loved and loves a distant cousin who he has known from childhood, from a poorer family, and bought up in the family of a better off aunt.

…the whole face wore for the moment a relaxed dreamy, impassive air, curiously Eastern, and not wholly free from melancholy.

The settings in the book are mostly in one relatives parlour or another, gathered for various festivities.

Conversation flagged, as it inevitably did at these family gatherings, until after the meal, when crabbed age and youth, separating by mutual consent, would grow loquacious enough in their respective circles.

… the great majority gay with that rather spurious gaiety, that forcing of the note, which is so marked a charateristic of festivities.

That is so true, I have been at, let’s call them do’s and have felt that way.

There is a young family friend, from a very well to do English family, he is certainly a most eligible bachelor, although not Jewish, but by marrying him Judith Quixano would be elevated to a different level in the social strata and it certainly would be very good for her relatives too.

Generally speaking, the race instincts of Rebecca of York are strong, and she is less apt to give her heart to Ivanhoe, the Saxon knight than might be imagined.

I think said Leo “that he was shocked at finding us so little like the people in Daniel Deronda.”

So it is for Judith as she loves Reuben, but Reuben must marry money MMM.  Her father –

He was one of the world’s failures; and the Jewish people, so eager to crown success, form, so  … have scant love for those unfortunates who have dropped behind in the race.

They acted and reacted on one another, deceiving and deceived, with the strange unconscious hypocrisy of lovers.

I felt this book so caught the nuances of Jewish life, a circle orbiting within a circle, sometimes touching, but never meshing.

The Jew it may be remarked in passing, eats and dresses at least two degrees above his Gentile brother in the same rank of life.

…What help is there?  There is no help, for all these things are so.  A. C. Swinburne.

Reuben Sachs is not a long book but it carries you along very quickly, although the settings and plot are predictable, the verbiage, flow and wit of writing is smooth.

I loved it and therefore will rate it a 5 Star, I know not all would agree.

Christy


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