Spanning post-World War I throughWorld War II British history, 21 Aldgate follows the Simon family through tenuous times that forever forged and separated families. The story begins when Clara Simon can no longer tolerate her boss’s virulent anti-Semitism. She quits her job and by chance winds up a week later employed by the famous artist Paul Maze, friend to Winston Churchill and other European diplomats. Clara’s life irrevocably changes as she begins to help Charles write his painful World War I memoir. Now Hitler’s ascendancy threatens world peace anew, but Britain’s elite think he’s a joke and don’t believe the rumors spreading about concentration camps and the disappearance of Jews, including Clara’s Aunt Nellie. Paul and Clara travel to France to help remember parts of Paul’s experiences as a field artist for England and France and to find Aunt Nellie. Both Clara and Paul experience firsthand the fear felt by German Jews and protestors at the hands of the secret police and Hitler’s new soldiers. Paul and Clara then fall in love, a relationship doomed to fail via their different worlds. It is Clara who finally settles into a deeper appreciation of what it means to be a Jewish wife, mother, and citizen, a role that strengthens both her and her family through the difficult days of bombing that lie ahead for England. The fascination of this novel lies not only in Clara’s ups and downs throughout this process but the reactions and responses of her family, representing the varied points of view and adjustment or lack thereof amid England’s besieged Jewish and secular community. The vicissitudes of World War II are splendidly delineated in this intriguing novel.
Abraham J. Edelheit is an associate professor of history at Kingsborough Community College (CUNY) and the author, co-author, or editor of eleven books on the Holocaust, Zionism, Jewish and European history, and Military affairs. His most recent publication appeared in Armor magazine, the official journal of the US Army Armor and Cavalry Command.
Jewish literature inspires, enriches, and educates the community.
Help support the Jewish Book Council.