The Banquet of Esther Rosenbaum

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9780955527234: The Banquet of Esther Rosenbaum

Berlin, 1929. The inflation-hungry city is edging towards disaster, but seven-foot, Jewish orphan Esther Rosenbaum is serving up chocolate hearts stuffed with saffron pen nibs. The bohemians, artists and cabaret composers who sample her finest recipes in the legendary Schorns restaurant, have declared her Germany's most celebrated chef. Yet it is a life built on quicksand: Schorns is owned by a gay black marketeer Leon Wolf - but patronized by Nazis. Now Esther, once a towering presence clad in her peacock tapestry skirts, has stopped eating and is reducing herself to bone, dressing as a man to blend into Berlin's vicious night streets. Using a burlesque brand of magic realism, Penny Simpson conjures fantastical elements to show how cookery can be an act of storytelling, and imagination itself an act of subversion and survival. ""An intriguing first novel.""--Booklist. ""Moving and inspiring.""--Midwest Book Review. ""A feast of language. . . served on a platter embellished with similes and metaphors so strong that their aromas permeate the text with every page.""--Jewish Book World.

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About the Author:

Penny Simpson is Head of Press at Welsh National Opera, coming full circle after a series of cleaning and receptionist's jobs at Glyndebourne Opera House, which helped support her at art college (and subsidised a taste in designer shoes). She trained as a journalist, specialising in the arts, before winning Barclays/TMA Theatre Critic of the Year in 1991. Her assignments took her to a post-war Croatian island beach to review The Tempest, and to Nikko, Japan, where she hung out with yabusame horseback archers. She is the 2007 Rhys Davies Short Story Competition winner. A playwright and author of short fiction which has appeared in anthologies from Bloomsbury, Honno and Virago, her debut collection of short fiction DOGdays was published in 2003. This is her first novel.

From Booklist:

Berlin between the world wars is a setting rich in possibilities for lovers of the absurd and grotesque. Simpson’s first novel takes full advantage of these possibilities, giving the reader a seven-foot-tall, anorexic Jewish chef as a guide. Rosenbaum’s story starts the night of Purim, a Jewish holiday celebrating her biblical namesake. After a tragic accident leaves her orphaned, Esther is forced to navigate the dangerous streets and times on her own. She is befriended by a series of avant-garde artists, including the young Bertolt Brecht. Simpson is at her best when combining elements of the surreal (magical food, giants) with the real (Nazis, Brecht). However, it is not always clear where her symbolism is leading. How does this Esther, the daughter of a rabbi, connect to the biblical Esther, an assimilated Jew who became the savior of her people? More to the point, why is she a giant suffering from anorexia? This is an intriguing first novel with promises of more polished work to come. --Marta Segal Block

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Book Description ALCEMI, United Kingdom, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. This work portrays the interwar cabaret scene in Munich and Berlin, seen through the eyes of a seven foot Jewish giantess. It reveals the tapestry of Jewish culture, evoked through food, theatre, clothes and custom, at the point at which it is about to unravel. This retro epic evokes Angela Carter s brand of burlesque magic realism. Bookseller Inventory # AAR9780955527234

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