Jacob’s Folly by Rebecca Miller

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Historical Fiction

By Grushenka Arnold

Rebecca Miller’s descriptive discourse has the astounding ability to enable the reader to create exceptionally vivid images that transcend the realms of even the most limited of imaginations.

Her words are so precise and carefully chosen that they allow the reader to become immersed in the worlds of the characters, capturing the pathos of their respective situations.

The story is narrated by the being in question – Jacob Cerf. Jacob is a young Jewish peddler living in Paris during the eighteenth century. Jacob is determined to make something of his life through whatever means possible. However, he is embroiled in a loveless marriage and feeling trapped, he can see no way out of his predicament.

Reincarnated as the being in question, Jacob’s life takes an existential turn. He now finds himself in modern day America and realises he can influence the lives of others. Leslie Senzatimore, a pillar of the community and supposedly model husband, is about to have his life transformed.

So too, will Masha, a remarkably beautiful, but gravely ill young woman striving to break free from the chains her religion imposes. Masha longs to seek out a new life away from her family and the existence she knows.

Jacob arrives at a time that may just see all their lives take a completely unexpected turn.
“It might take a long time, I vowed, but I would raise this girl up and out of her sanctified sleep of self-abegnation, raise her to fame…And, somehow, I would bring Leslie Senzatimore, that pillar of goodness, down.” – Jacob (p.77)

This book also provides a funny, enlightening and thought provoking insight into the practise of Judaism over three centuries ago in Europe and indeed, in modern America today.

Miller’s writing style possesses great finesse, taking a seemingly absurd idea and transforming it into something you could almost believe to be true. You will never look at a fly in the same way again!

About the Author
Rebecca Miller is an American author, director and screen writer, born in Connecticut in 1962. Having attended Yale University, Miller studied Art, but subsequently pursued an acting career in the early 1990s. In 1995, she wrote and directed her first film Angela.
Previous publications by this author include Personal Velocity and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee. Both publications have been adapted for screen (directed by the author) with Personal Velocity winning The Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.
Rebecca Miller is married with three sons and currently lives in Ireland.
Cannongate Books Ltd, UK (2013)

Grushenka Arnold: Book Reviewer

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