Shifra Horn, Author , trans. from the Hebrew by H. Sacks. St. Martin's $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-26590-8

This entertaining second novel (after Four Mothers) from Israeli writer Horn opens in 1948, when widowed Angela and her young daughter, Rosa, move from the Mamilla quarter of Jerusalem to a beautiful villa in Old Katamon, recently abandoned by the Arabs. Soon the house is crowded with other refugees from the Jewish Quarter, and they move on to an apartment house in Katamon G, where Angela and Rosa both live out their lives, Angela remaining faithful to her husband to the last and Rosa taking on husband after husband. Perhaps this is the fate mother imposes upon daughter, for Angela deems Rosa "the fairest among women" and will do anything to ensure that she is, dressing Rosa in ruffled dresses and curling her blonde hair into elaborate ringlets. Moreover, Rosa—who weighed 6.5 kilos at birth, is born with breasts and early on acquires an insatiable appetite—is always big for her age and always attracts the attention of men. At 14, she must marry the uncle who has impregnated her. When, eight children later, he dies, she marries her childhood sweetheart, and when his devotion to Rosa kills him, she marries a painter and Holocaust survivor who insists, "All your beauty is in your size." Set against the past 50 years of Israeli history, this is narrated in the style of folk and fairy tales, with near miracles occurring on every page. Just what Horn wants the reader to make of this tapestry of tales is hard to tell, and at times she seems to lose track of her themes. But the many tales she spins are by turns sad, salty, funny and always inventive, delicious in their detail if not their design. (July)

Reviewed on: 06/25/2001
Release date: 07/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-4668-8025-2
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