The Singing Fire by Lilian Nattel
A Novel

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Lilian Nattel, the acclaimed author of The River Midnight, masterfully brings to life a vanished world -- the lanes boiling with the steam from kettles of laundry, the smokestacks belching coal dust, the chatter of tailors, piemen, and thieves. This is where Nehama arrives with her dreams of independence, not realizing the dangers that a girl on her own must face. Tricked into prostitution and with only the whispers of her deceased grandmother to guide her, she escapes into the alleys of the East End, where bustling market stalls and penny seats at the theater are just a handsbreadth away from the criminal warrens. In the Jewish ghetto Nehama makes a new life, remembering the lessons of the street to help another runaway, Emilia, pregnant and unwed. But Emilia refuses a hardscrabble life and, relinquishing her baby to Nehama, re-creates herself in the chic streets of the West End. Nattel intertwines the stories of these women as they build their lives in two sides of the city.

With stunningly vivid prose Nattel writes of the chaos of this rich city life; she tells the stories of whores and rabbis, street vendors and artists, sweatshops and Yiddish theater, and she beautifully renders the courage of mothers and sisters navigating dangerous realms.

This is a remarkable tale of two unforgettable women and the child that unites them in the maelstrom of fin de siècle London.


About Lilian Nattel

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Lilian Nattel is the author of The River Midnight, which was published to international acclaim and won the Martin and Beatrice Fisher Jewish Book Award. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two daughters.
Published January 1, 2004 by Scribner. 336 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Singing Fire

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Leaving her newborn daughter with Nehama, who is unable to bear children after two miscarriages, Emilia decamps to London's Soho, where she works as a shop girl and catches the eye of Jacob, a successful Jewish writer who thinks the "golden-haired and gray-eyed" Emilia is a gentile.

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Book Reporter

"She was sitting on the step of a shop … she had her bag by her feet on the wet ground … [she] was seventeen years old and alone, so she prayed … 'help me please.'" Out of the fog a man answered.

Jan 23 2011 | Read Full Review of The Singing Fire: A Novel

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