In her new novel Sapphires, Sara Dowse shows great promise as a writer who may yet write a Jewish women’s novel infused with deeper Jewish sources. Dowse begins with a lovely account of Evelyn Hazelwood recalling her grandmother reading the Tzena U’rena (Yiddish translation of the Bible with commentaries) and the tale of a young girl hiding precious gems.
Sapphires then dissolves into a hodgepodge of Jewish women’s history refracted through Evelyn’s experiences. Her grandmother brought the family to America, her mother became an actress, and Evelyn ends up in Sydney, Australia, following Paul, who came to America to play rugby. References to Jewish mysticism, folklore and Jewish women’s contemporary lives across the globe make interesting reading but do not hold the plot together Like Evelyn, Dowse was born in America, and moved to Australia 20 years later; perhaps the book would have been more compelling as her own autobiography.
Sally Berkovic is an Australian-born writer living in London.