Farhud is backdrop for new novel

The lives of two Jewish families, one from Hungary and the other from Iraq,  converge unexpectedly in London in the shadow of the Farhud pogrom in Iraq and the Nazi Holocaust. Interview by Keren David with the author of Nine love letters, Gerald Jacobs, in the Jewish Chronicle:

It is a slightly worrying thing, the task of reading a colleagues
book and interviewing him about it, especially as in this case the
colleague is Gerald Jacobs, literary editor of this newspaper since the
late 1980s, who, as a result, knows as much about books, and Jewish
books in particular,  as many a professor of literature.

Gerald’s latest book, out this week, is his first novel, and at first glance from the title — Nine Love Letters
— and the cover, which features a girl in a 1940s style dress, sitting
reading a letter, I wondered if he’d written a conventional romance. But
the book, and the letters around which it is structured, offer a far
wider exploration of love, with familial love as central to the story as
the ardent missives exchanged between lovers.

The range of the
novel is epic, taking in generations of Jewish families in Iraq and
Hungary and their descendants in England, and he does not shy away from
the horrors of the concentration camps, and the Farhud,
Baghdad’s version of a pogrom, which brutally ended generations of Iraqi
Jewish life in 1941. I was gripped by the story, and — even though our
interview was imminent — found myself reading slowly, because I didn’t
want the book to end.

The writing, too, stands out. It reminded me
of a memoir or, at times, reportage, with its rush of anecdotes,
telling the stories of family, friends and neighbours in a few packed
pages, moving back and forward in time, with an omniscient third-person
narrator. There was something about it that felt different from other
novels covering similar ground.

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