A Suitable Husband by S.B. Lerner
In 1930s Poland, the economy is crumbling, the government is in chaos, and Jewish groups argue over how best to deal with the worsening situation. Among them are the Guardsmen, daring and organized young Zionists who are determined to start a new life in Palestine.
A Suitable Husband brings this vibrant period alive with the story of Bianca Lieber, caught between the pressure to marry Alex, the intelligent but staid doctor presented by the matchmaker, and Wolf, the intrepid Zionist leader who can help her get to Palestine.
Just over 6 months ago I first met S.B. Lerner online when I reviewed her collection of short stories (In the Middle of Almost and other stories) and after enjoying it very much I was excited to eventually be able to read the novel that she had in-progress at that time! About a month ago she contacted me to let me know that the story was done. I was so excited and could not wait to start reading. Sometimes when you have a lot of expectations attached to a new book it doesn't work ...... however in this particular case ..... the wait was totally worth it and I hope that there is much more to come from this very gifted writer!
I loved this book. I read books on a regular basis about 1930's and 1940's Europe and on the plight of the Jews during this time. I have a family connection to the Holocaust and I think that because of this tie I am drawn to fiction about this era. What I have not read much about is the Zionist movement in Poland before the onset of the German invasion, I learnt so much from reading A Suitable Husband. At the same time you get to expand your knowledge on such important events in world history, you get to enjoy a beautifully written coming of age story that touches both the heart and mind. A must for all readers of Historical Fiction.
Susan was gracious enough to take time from her busy schedule and let the readers of Mommy's Reading Too a little bit about why she chose to write about 1930's Poland.
When I was a kid, I’d lie on my bed with a book every day after school and read novels. A great story gave me hope that life could be exciting and dramatic and that people could evolve from quiet and serious (like me) into interesting and charismatic (my heroines). Whether they provided inspiration or simply distracted me from living more fully, I’m still not sure. But there is no denying the power and influence of the novel.
I was a Nancy Drew fan in elementary school, but as I got a bit older, I gravitated to novels about World War Two, probably because both my parents came over from Eastern Europe when they were young. They rarely spoke of their childhoods, so what I learned in novels filled in the gaps. I read books like Exodus and Winds of War, and then branched out into books about other times and places. I enjoyed books which transported me to other worlds and where I learned about other periods in history. That is the kind of book I wanted to write. When I learned about the political youth groups in 1930s Poland, I realized that fascinating period has been largely overshadowed by the Holocaust, and chose it as the setting for my novel.
The Zionist youth movement in 1930s Poland was a psychological lifeline for young Polish Jews, and for those who made it to Palestine, a literal one. Their grievances were very real but they'd given up on protesting the widespread anti-Semitism. With limited opportunities for education or employment and their civil rights steadily eroding, they banded together, determined to claim their piece of land in Palestine, and to develop it through hard work, in order to live in freedom.
They faced their increasingly bleak future with energy, organization and a grand sense of purpose. They defied their parents, found money to bribe the necessary officials, got around restrictive British emigration policies, and turned scholars into farmers. They lived communally in unique and for a long time, largely successful, socialist farming communities, making up their own rules, inventing their own moral code. Heady stuff, and a great setting for a novel.
I hope mine has done them justice.
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