Page 77 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

Basic HTML Version

YUDKIN / TH E POST-WAR ANGLO-JEWISH FAMILY NOVEL
65
the nations of the earth. Kitty, the wife, is totally subserviant to
her husband, and seems to adore him ever more with the passing
of time.
This novel deals with the ultimate issues of life and death. The
reader soon discovers that Sydney is suffering from a terminal
disease, and that this is to be his last year of life. And yet his objec­
tive is to hold his family and to protect his wife from knowledge of
the real situation (she meanwhile thinks that she is protecting
him, and that it is he who does not know the truth). At this critical
juncture, it becomes clear that each member of the family, for
whatever motive, has been hiding something, some fundamental
concern from the others. But it is only when the truth is uncov­
ered in these significant matters that genuine caring can be
expressed. People should be loved and appreciated in the knowl­
edge of what they are in actuality. Even when rebuking his rebel­
lious daughter, Sydney expresses love and looks for the positive
in each situation. Nevertheless, in spite of all the gentleness of
demeanor and attitude, there is still great difficulty, confirmed
by the need to cover up and to act in opposition to one’s nature.
The problem is that children cannot live out the expectation of
their parents, or, indeed, of anyone else. If they suppress their
own self, not out of their own volition or compliance, then the
hurt will appear in another guise. This is the kind of issue that can
be sorted out in Sydney’s last year.
This is not a complacent novel, and it is not complacent about
the Jewish community. It is the non-Jewish girl, Sarah, Josh’s new
girlfriend, who displays greater humanity and sympathy than
any of the Jews in the family. The family network, as manifest in
the novel, is varied and complex, covering a wide range of ages,
attitudes and situations. And it is within this network that Sydney
finds comfort in the cycle of the Jewish year, Jewish history and
tradition, concretized in the hero and his own flesh and blood.
He is aware of his failure to live up to expectations of himself, but
he certainly would not let go of them. The novel’s subject is the
attempt by an ordinary but good person to retain his historically
grounded faith in the circumstances of everyday, even banal liv­
ing. The book tries to convey the texture of suburban routine,
and thus involves the danger of dreary stereotype. But it also rises
beyond that routine with its representation of love on the plain of
the ordinary, the tragically ordinary.