Portraying A Vanishing Community
Deeptha Achar
BOOK OF RACHEL by Esther David Penguin/Viking, New Delhi, 2006, 197 pp., 295
June 2006, volume 30, No 6

In many ways, Esther David’s Book of Rachel resonates with rather than follows from the preoccupations in her earlier books. As in her previous book Book of Esther, whose very title suggests a certain proximity to this new one, and also her former novel The Walled City, David is concerned with depicting Jewish life in a contemporary Indian context. However, Book of Rachel marks a turn in her exploration of this theme. Her preceding books look inward at the Bene Israel Jews in India, chronicling the community yet critiquing it through the travails and triumphs of her protagonists. In that sense, Book of Rachel is more ambitious. It not only portrays the community from within but also examines the pushes and pulls, economic and cultural, which impinge upon it. Moving from the Ahmedabad setting of Book of Esther to coastal Maharashtra, the novel tells the tale of a vanishing community.

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