Magazine article The Spectator

A Late Run on the Rails

Magazine article The Spectator

A Late Run on the Rails

Article excerpt

A late run on the rails THE BEAR BOY by Cynthia Ozick Weidenfeld, £12.99, pp. 310, ISBN 02978480898 £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848

All of a sudden, there is a buzz about Cynthia Ozick. Although respected for many years as a writer of fiction and criticism, no one ever seemed to expect her to reach a wide audience. Now, together with more famous luminaries, she has been announced as a contender for the first Man Booker International Prize: the media circus has opened itself to her. Her last novel, The Puttermesser Papers, was never published in the UK at all, despite critical acclaim in the USA, but The Bear Boy (called Heir to the Glimmering World in the US) has been published with a conviction that looks as if it expects substantial sales.

The Mitwisser family are German Jews who have been rescued by the Quakers and brought to the Bronx in the 1930s. The Professor goes off to the library each day 'attired like an ambassador' to pursue his research on a forgotten sect of 10th-century schismatics called the Karaites. His wife is a physicist unhinged by the trauma of departure and her new existence. There are three 'vagabond boys', an infant called Waltraut and a severe teenager called Anneliese. The tale is narrated by Rose Meadows, an orphan who goes to work as assistant to the Professor. She says that she 'was a sort of refugee myself, at which Anneliese 'shot me a look of purest contempt'.

Into their lives tumbles James A'Bair, a Christopher Robin figure who has inherited limitless wealth from his father, who used him as the model for a sequence of internationally bestselling children's books. …

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