Do you ever read a review and want to read a book by the reviewer every bit as much as the book being reviewed? Some reviews make me feel like that. This review by Jennifer Cameron-Smith of Gillian Polack’s The Wizardry of Jewish Women (2016) is one. Jennifer writes:
‘This book is about shadows. The shadow of the past on our past.’
Meet Rhonda. Meet Judith, and her sister Belinda. And as you gradually become familiar with their lives, their loves, their fears and their pasts, you’ll find yourself wondering what the future holds. For each of them, and for those who matter to them.
While each of these women thinks they want an ordinary, uncomplicated life, it’s never going to be that easy. Why? Well, apart from the fact that the past has its own impact, there are the shoals of relationships to be negotiated. And there is magic as well. Judith and Belinda have a family mystery to explore: just who is this great-grandmother that no-one talks about? Judith’s past includes wonderful children. Can she ever move out from under the shadow cast by family violence? And Rhonda? Free-lance work through an agency may have its benefits, but her manager is not one of them. (full review here)
Doesn’t the reviewer make this book sound intriguing?
Elizabeth Fitzgerald’s review fleshes out more of the novel’s scenario:
The Wizardry of Jewish Women is a complex book of literary fantasy that focuses on the lives of three women. Judith and Belinda are sisters who have just inherited two trunks of their great-grandmother’s papers. Rhonda is a historian and prophet whose historical articles trigger a need to blurt modern-day prophecies on the same topics in online chat rooms.
The book has many of the typical themes and characteristics of the author’s previous novels. It is a very feminist book, with Judith explicitly identifying as feminist and being involved in political activism. The domestic sphere is valued, as the story focuses on the daily lives of these women and their relationships. (full review here)
I haven’t yet read any of Polack’s work, but this is one book I’ll look out for in the library.
About Gillian Polack: According to her publisher Satalyte’s bio page, Gillian Polack has published three novels. One, Ms Cellophane/Life through Cellophane, was a Ditmar Finalist, and in 2010 she won the Best Achievement Ditmar. She has earned two PhDs, one in Medieval History and another in Creative Writing. You can find her on Twitter @GillianPolack, her website, and The History Girls blog.