Lilian Nattel, the acclaimed author of The River Midnight, masterfully brings to life a vanished world -- the lanes boiling with the steam from kettles of laundry, the smokestacks belching coal dust, the chatter of tailors, piemen, and thieves. This is where Nehama arrives with her dreams of independence, not realizing the dangers that a girl on her own must face. Tricked into prostitution and with only the whispers of her deceased grandmother to guide her, she escapes into the alleys of the East End, where bustling market stalls and penny seats at the theater are just a handsbreadth away from the criminal warrens. In the Jewish ghetto Nehama makes a new life, remembering the lessons of the street to help another runaway, Emilia, pregnant and unwed. But Emilia refuses a hardscrabble life and, relinquishing her baby to Nehama, re-creates herself in the chic streets of the West End. Nattel intertwines the stories of these women as they build their lives in two sides of the city.
With stunningly vivid prose Nattel writes of the chaos of this rich city life; she tells the stories of whores and rabbis, street vendors and artists, sweatshops and Yiddish theater, and she beautifully renders the courage of mothers and sisters navigating dangerous realms.
This is a remarkable tale of two unforgettable women and the child that unites them in the maelstrom of fin de siècle London
The story of two Jesiwh women from different economic backgrounds who travel independently to London in the 1800's to improve their lives. One lives in the Jewish ghetto and the other in the privileged West End, though their lives become intertwined through love and friendship. The author does a wonderful work of bringing to life the sounds, smells, and personalities of this period in London. Not being Jewish myself, I found the customs and language of the people to be very interesting.