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Hope: A Tragedy

by Shalom Auslander

Solomon Kugel and his family have moved from the city to an old farmhouse in Stockton, New York, a town where, hopes Sol, nothing happens. How wrong he is. The family no sooner moves in when an arsonist begins to target old farmhouses in the area. Their woes are compounded by the fact that Sol’s ageing, muddled and (possibly) dying mother has moved in with them and they have to take in a rather cantankerous lodger to help pay the rent.

Mother is obsessed with the Holocaust and spends all her waking hours bemoaning this, and her nights are spent howling that they’re coming for her. Problem is she isn’t a survivor and neither was any of her family. When she starts to tell three-year-old Jonah Holocaust stories, Sol protests: “You’re going to scare him Mother” he says. “Somebody has to” she replies, in her unique dead-pan style. When a tap-tapping and then a very awful smell starts to permeate the house through the ventilation ducts, Sol is led to the attic, and there he finds something very extraordinary indeed.

The something very extraordinary is such a wonderful bombshell I want you all to experience it as well so I’m going to stop here. Suffice to say that this book is as you’d expect from the author of FORESKIN’S LAMENT - shocking, irreverent, hilariously funny and heartbreakingly sad.

No apologies for yet another novel about the Holocaust. Woody Allen put it brilliantly in his film Hannah and Her Sisters. One of the characters, Frederick, delivers these words of wisdom: “You missed a very dull TV show on Auschwitz. More gruesome film clips, and more puzzled intellectuals declaring their mystification over the systematic murder of millions. The reason they can never answer the question 'How could it possibly happen?' is that it's the wrong question. Given what people are, the question is 'Why doesn't it happen more often?'"

Shalom.

Irene Haynes

Published by Picador, 292pp.

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