Book Review: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank by Nathan Englander
November 24, 2012 12 Comments
I came across this book several times in the book shop and saw other blogger’s reviews. It seemed good, but… short stories? As you may know, I’m not a short story fan. But the book looked attractive, the reviews were good, and I previously read The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander, and enjoyed it lots. So, I went and read the stories.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: What it is about
From the publishers: “The title story, inspired by Raymond Carver’s masterpiece, is a provocative portrait of two marriages in which the Holocaust is played out as a devastating parlor game. In the outlandishly dark “Camp Sundown” vigilante justice is undertaken by a group of geriatric campers in a bucolic summer enclave. “Free Fruit for Young Widows” is a small, sharp study in evil, lovingly told by a father to a son.
“Sister Hills” chronicles the history of Israel’s settlements from the eve of the Yom Kippur War through the present, a political fable constructed around the tale of two mothers who strike a terrible bargain to save a child. Marking a return to two of Englander’s classic themes, “Peep Show” and “How We Avenged the Blums” wrestle with sexual longing and ingenuity in the face of adversity and peril. And “Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother’s Side” is suffused with an intimacy and tenderness that break new ground for a writer who seems constantly to be expanding the parameters of what he can achieve in the short form.”
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank: What I thought
I loved some of the stories a lot and others not so much. The title story was such fun! The subject is difficult: who would take you in and hide you (like Anne Frank) if a war broke out and “they” were after you? A very entertaining story.
Sister Hills was like almost like a fairy tale, about a woman who sells her daughter to her neighbor to save the child. It also tells the story of early Jewish settlers and the expansion of their settlement into a large town. This was beautifully written and entertaining.
After those two stories, I was not so interested anymore. How to Avenge the Blums is about some Jewish boys (in America) trying to fight off some anti-Jewish boys. Violence? The next is about a peepshow. It becomes surrealistic and I felt embarrassed on the main character’s behalf about what happened in this story. Nah. Not for me.
Really, I liked the first two stories, and after that, I wasn’t interested anymore. I think someone who enjoys short stories per sé will like this better than I did. The stories all had a Jewish theme but are very different, to a degree that you’d never mix up the different stories. I like that.
Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
Number of pages: 216 (Dutch edition)
First published: 2012
I got this book: from the library
My edition: Dutch: Waar we het over hebben wanneer we het over Anne Frank hebben
Genre: short stories, contemporary fiction
Have you read this book?
What did you think?