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Daughters of Jerusalem [Hardcover]

Charlotte Mendelson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

21 Feb 2003
She is sick of this - the sooty castles of the Banbury Road...She is sick of navyblue corduroy, Gothic arches, famous fig trees, shabby dons' wives, cellars, rivers, genius children, stuttering and gold leaf. It is your fault, she thinks, approaching her husband's college, as she glimpses her neighbour, an entirely silent botanist, attempting to untangle his own beard from a hawthorn tree. None of you are normal. Is normal. And I am. In a shabby, book-choked house in North Oxford live the Lux family. Victor, a dedicated professor, is desperate to be elected to give the prestigious annual Spenser lecture. Jean, his unassuming wife, is tentatively experimenting with the boundaries of her marital freedom. Eve, an over-achiever like her father, is suffering from a dangerous teenage angst - straining to achieve top marks in her exams and yet always in the shadow of her younger sister, Pheobe, who is perfect, it seems. Into this climate of repression and bitterness there comes an unworldly don, Victor's bete-noir, who shows interest in the vulnerable Eve. Meanwhile, Jean's best friend, Helen, has something she is yearning to tell: a confession that may alter everyone's constrainingly absurd life for ever. Daughters of Jerusalem is a captivating tale of hidden love and secret hatred, of the desire to belong and the need for escape, and of the fine line between wanting to be discovered and fearing the consequences when the delicious unknown becomes brutally exposed...

Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (21 Feb 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330482777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330482776
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 336,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Charlotte Mendelson was born in 1972 and grew up in Oxford. Her first short story was published in New Writing 7 and broadcast on Radio 4. Daughters of Jerusalem is her second novel. She lives in London with her family.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intense, incestuous story 3 Aug 2003
By Jill B
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed Daughters of Jerusalem, finishing it in two days. The setting is richly described: academic life in Oxford with all its anachronisms and traditions yet the erudite, learned characters in this story are rendered unable to articulate their feelings in real life. There are several frustrating conversations on the lines of:
'I mean....no, I can't...'
'But it's just....I...'
'Do you mean...?
The everyday trappings of daily life in this seat of learning - bicycles, college porters, cloisters - are not challenged, rather grudgingly accepted by the characters. I loved the sense of their terrible passions played out against this backdrop, where before them so many similar stories had surely been played out. Reading Mendelson's description of new love/lust was utterly refreshing, the madness, the sweating, the trembling expectation so easily disappointed only for hope to flare up once again. The family of Victor and Jean contains four desperately misunderstood people, seemingly unable to explain their needs or thoughts to each other, all careering towards chaos.
I would recommend this novel without hesitation. Charlotte Mendelson is a great new talent, brave and tense and aware.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A consistently excellent book of contrasts 21 Feb 2005
By Beautiful Freak VINE VOICE
On the surface, the Lux family seems the model of Oxford respectability. The father, Victor, is the archetypal academic: a benign, slightly bewildered figure who is wrapped up in his world of books, ancient civilisations and university rivalries. Jean, his wife, jumps through all the expected hoops and the two children, Eve and Phoebe, are gifted and charming respectively. However, under this facade is a seething bed of emotions waiting to be released. Victor, despite his intelligence, is unable to articulate or even recognise his own intense feelings, while Jean begins to push the boundaries of a marriage in which she would never have confessed to feeling trapped. In the contrasts between Oxford's open spaces and dreaming spires, and its cramped, claustrophobic academic pedantry, Mendelson paints a portrait of the paradox of marriage, and the difference between its outer and inner surfaces.
However, the main story concerns Eve: the rejected, self-pitying, hopelessly socially-unskilled, diligent oddball, whose jealousy for Phoebe, her mother's favourite, has crossed into the realms of hatred. At times, Eve's role in the family and Phoebe's unbelievable malevolence seem almost caricatured, but in cleverly taking Eve's point of view, Mendelson manipulates the skewed teenage perception of a world in which she is Cinderella - or rather, perhaps, the Ugly Duckling - and everyone else acts the wicked stepmother. Eve's struggle to find a place in her family and in her own self-consciousness during the troubled period of adolescence is interrupted by the arrival of what she believes to be her prince charming.
Charlotte Mendelson's erratic, unusual characters are three-dimensional, and she skillfully moves between perspectives to give at least a brief glance of the inner thoughts of many.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Persevere 28 Feb 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It took me a couple or goes to get into this novel, but I'm so glad I did because once you're in it grips you and won't let go til it's over. At first you think 'where's this going' and then you realise nowhere and isn't that how life often is. I love, love, love the dialogue, it's so poetic. It only has four stars because I found one of the characters so wonderful I was tempted to skip the scenes she wasn't in to get to her.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Darker than it initially seems 13 Jan 2012
By Kate Hopkins TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A black-comic novel about a dysfunctional Oxford academic family. Jean, an archivist, married don Victor Lux, of a Jewish emigre family, when she was barely out of university herself. Like Masha in Chekhov's 'The Three Sisters' with Kuligin, at that point she believed him the cleverest man that she knew. But after nearly 20 years of marriage her pride in Victor's cleverness has given way to exasperation at his obsession with his work, his untidiness and absent-mindedness. Victor, meanwhile, is too worried about his position in the academic world (which he feels to be weakening) to pay sufficient attention to his wife and daughters, particularly when an old and hated rival turns up to take a job at his college. Meanwhile the couple's daughters - plain, studious and tormented-soul Eve and beautiful, lazy and rebellious Phoebe - are at war with each other. Eve longs for her parents' love but finds her braininess taken for granted, and her fumbling efforts to please them ignored; her feelings of failure express themselves in a violent hatred for Phoebe, who is showered with love and presents by her mother, and treated with amused admiration by her father, and whose bad behaviour tends to be regarded by Jean and Victor as 'high spirits'. Underneath her bravado, however, Phoebe too nurses terrible resentments, at being the only non-clever member of her family. Meanwhile, Victor's old rival is attempting to get a hold of both of Victor's daughters, and Jean's best friend and confidante, widowed don Helena has a secret to disclose...

Mendelson brings the claustrophobic scholarly atmosphere of Oxford beautifully to life, and produces some very convincing dialogue, and descriptions of people.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommend
Recommend. Good value. Long stay
Published 1 month ago by Pat foster
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard to wade through
About over half of the book was irritating - the author seemed to be wrapped up in her own self-admiration of her style, I thought. The characters were repellent apart from Eve. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars hard to read
I still have not managed to read half the book.
very difficult to read, but I will try harder.
So far nothing about Jerusalem..
maybe later..
Published 4 months ago by teddybear
5.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Always liked her work. Hard to review as reading is so personal. but would recommend to friends if they wanted a book to read on holiday etc.
Published 6 months ago by Shiri
2.0 out of 5 stars Dark and Depressing
If this book hadn't been a gift, I wouldn't have read it to the end. In fact, I wouldn't have read it at all, full stop, largely due to the main characters' lack of warmth or... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Celia Fife
4.0 out of 5 stars it's worth reading !
I have to choose a novel for the book club I belong to, and have been looking for a while. Most books that I have read of late have been disappointing. Read more
Published 8 months ago by J. E. Aktas
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping literary fiction
A fabulous literary novel about an academically-minded family just about to enter freefall and implode entirely. I loved it. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Ms. A. Brooke
5.0 out of 5 stars Passions in Oxford
The novel is set in academic Oxford, where the male dons pursue the most obscure studies and are generally a scruffy, pedantic and absent-minded lot, while their wives or female... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ralph Blumenau
5.0 out of 5 stars Another gem from this author
This novel tells the story of the Lux family; the father, Victor, "a black-haired, stooping, wolfhound of a man", his much younger wife Jean, and his teenage daughters, Eve and... Read more
Published 13 months ago by F. M. M. Stott
3.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating
I found this tough going as - although humourous in places - I didn't find any of the characters were actually very likeable. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Bee of Good Cheer
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