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Summer Reading: The German Bride

The German Bride, Joanna Hershon’s third novel, is that rare thing: a historical novel that unfolds organically without a whole lot of “Look at me! I’m a historical novel!”

Her first two novels, Swimming and The Outside of August, both beautifully drawn contemporary narratives, prepared me not at all for this imaginative, deeply researched tale of the American frontier as inhabited by German Jews in the nineteenth century. It’s not exactly the usual “Jewish” setting we’ve come to expect from contemporary “Jewish” novelists (you know, mix-and-match: psychiatry, the Holocaust, masturbation, Yiddishism), which is perhaps why the New York Times couldn’t quite figure out how to properly essentialize: the title and opening of the Times review are pretty goddamn idiotic and offensive given that Hershon’s novel has nothing whatsoever to do with Yiddish culture.

But hey! It’s a “Jewish” novel about 19th century pioneer Jews in the great, untamed west — throw out an “Oy” and a reference to “Blazing Saddles” and that oughta do it, right? Um, no.

If you’re interested in a somewhat more nuanced, thoughtful peek, check out the fascinating interview Hershon gave to Ha’aretz.

And pick up a copy of this gem for your more discerning literary friends. (Your other friends will probably do just fine with this.)

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