For those of us who have waited patiently for Lore Segal’s next offering, Shakespeare’s Kitchen is a wonderful reward; for readers new to her work, it will be a revelation. These thirteen closely inter-related stories, seven of which appeared previously in The New Yorker, are wise, subtle, trenchant, and full of surprises.
Although the narrative style is straightforward, even plain, the stories carry real heft, eg., “The Reverse Bug,” which begins with charming multi-ethnic humor, and builds to the horrors of the Holocaust. Reluctantly leaving her New York life to accept a faculty position at a Connecticut think tank, Ilka, protagonist of Segal’s early novel, Her First American, must reach out to form new friendships. Her warm acceptance by Leslie Shakespeare, Dean of the Institute, and his mercurial wife, Eliza, facilitates Ilka’s advancement into the stratified society of faculty, junior and senior, support staff, even an elusive Nobel Laureate.
By “Yom Kippur Card,” the culminating story, its author has weighed in on power, ambition, love, sex, motherhood, aging and death, among other grand themes. This stunning collection finds Lore Segal at the height of her impressive powers.