Magazine article The Spectator

A Jewish Broth of a Girl

Magazine article The Spectator

A Jewish Broth of a Girl

Article excerpt

HOME FIRES by Shivaun Woolfson Atlantic Books, L16.99, pp. 264, ISBN 1903809495

'Soon', I kept thinking as I flipped the pages of Shivaun Woolfson's book, `she'll stop feeling so sorry for herself!' Oh hapless me! I had to wait until the very last page before my prediction came true.

Don't get me wrong. The instinct to gloat over the misfortunes of others is one of the most deeply implanted in the human soul. It's just that Shivaun makes so much of a meal of her vicissitudes that we tire of the taste.

Shivaun was born to wealthy Jewish parents and grew up in the 1960s in Dublin. Her mother is wild, tempestuous and beautiful - `She loves clothes, dresses like a model. People compare her to Audrey Hepburn.' The problem is, she is mad, striking and cursing at Shivaun as she flies into myriad rages. Her father, although a bit bossy, comes across as being a decent enough chap. He insists his children religiously attended shut and nags them to eat kosher food and observe all the Jewish rituals.

While still a teenager, she kicks off her Jewishness, as Audrey Hepburn might fling away her pointy stilettos, and falls in love with Pat, a Catholic musician. Pat is a member of an up and coming pop group, headed by a young Bob Geldof, the Boomtown Rats. Her father is none too pleased. Her mother, who has set up home with another man, ceases to care.

Shivaun is left bereft when Pat deserts her for London and fame. But she still has a few tricks up her sleeve to annoy her ceaselessly outraged Dad. At the age of 21, she leaves college and joins a cult group run by Guru Maharaja. When an opportunity arises to visit Miami for the Guru's birthday celebrations, Shivaun hops on a plane and whizzes off. The reader is left feeling sorry for her anguished father. Shivaun's pity is reserved strictly for herself.

Whilst in Miami she meets the handsome but dodgy Julio, a black Cuban drugdealer. Julio plunges her into a rackety life of police-evading and sleazy motels. The descriptions of Miami's seedy Sixties underworld are quite brilliant - an alarming maelstrom stuffed with drug-peddlers, prostitutes, bent cops and Afro hair-dos.

Heavily pregnant, and unhappy at Julio's continual womanising, she finds herself in prison. …

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