Monday, October 30, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: After Anatevka. A Novel Inspired by Fiddler on the Roof by Alexandra Silber

After seeing this favorable review in the Historical Novels Review, I had to read After Anatevka. A Novel Inspired by Fiddler on the Roof by Alexandra Silber.

I’ve seen the musical, of course, on stage and the movie version. Of the three daughters’ love stories, the romance between the middle daughter, Hodel, and her scholar/revolutionary suitor, Perchik, captivated me most. So I was intrigued by the idea of a novel that filled out the back stories of these two and followed them into exile in Siberia.

Hodel tries to find Perchik, but is imprisoned for over a year, kept away from him by those who hope she can shed light on his work. A political prisoner, Perchik has been sentenced to labor in the salt mines in Nerchinsk. Hodel is aware of his socialist ideals but knows no particulars. She can name no names. Her ignorance frustrates her captors, but likely it is that ignorance/innocence that saves her from a worse fate. Eventually, she is allowed to join Perchik as one of the "voluntary wives," women who have chosen to share their husbands’ exiles. As you would imagine, life is brutally hard in Siberia.

The story intersperses scenes from their struggles in Nerchinsk with vignettes from their pasts. Particularly sweet and thought-provoking are Hodel’s memories. They are imbued with tradition and familial love, linking this novel beautifully with the enduring message of the play. The author also weaves a back story for Perchik, the brilliant revolutionary who grew from an unloved, unwanted orphan, to a disillusioned wastrel of a scholar, to an impassioned leader, and above all, a man deeply, passionately, devotedly in love with Hodel. While his story is convincing and interesting, it was less emotionally moving than Hodel’s.

After Anatevka is a heart-wrenching re-imagining of Fiddler on the Roof. This is the early 1900s in Russia and these are Jews and Revolutionaries. Impending doom hangs over the lovers; yet the novel is not oppressive. Perchik is an idealist who truly believes a better world is coming. Hodel has a deep religious faith. And the love they feel for one another not only allows them to endure hardship, it inspires others to endure.

1 comment:

  1. I've always ended Fiddler wanting more! So glad someone had the creativity to actually put that into action!