Before All the World: A Novel

We rated this book:


Oh, help, I thought, less than a third of the way into this book, I’m reading poetry. It was not a complaint; far from it. Before All the World is poetry as it should be: deliberate while feeling casual, a game with words that is at once playful and deadly serious (sometimes by turns, sometimes truly simultaneously). Just as poetry ought to, it swallowed me up, and then all at once, a word or a phrase would reach me like a bolt of lightning, charring and electrifying me all through.

I suspect those who do not like the book will turn away from it primarily because of how it plays with language. The book is presented as a work in translation but only half-translated. In some places, Yiddish is left whole and untouched; in others, English is shifted to become a meeting place for the two languages. For readers with little to no background in Yiddish, it’s possible to understand, though I won’t say it becomes easy. I can only say you have begun to find the flow.

Before All the World is one of the few books I’ve read lately that has made me genuinely emotional. Even if it were not beautifully crafted, I would have to highly recommend it for that alone.

Reviewed By:

Author Moriel Rothman-Zecher
Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 336 pages
Publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publish Date 11-Oct-2022
ISBN 9780374231668 Buy this Book
Issue January 2023
Category Historical Fiction