Aidan Byrne reviews The Greatest Need by Jasmine Donahaye

The Greatest Need

Honno, £10.99

Simon Black, the central protagonist of Lily Tobias’s My Mother’s House is for most of the narrative what might be called a self-hating Jew, a man who struggles to abandon both his Welshness and his Jewishness in a search for social acceptance. Tobias’s later novel, Eunice Fleet, also follows an initially unsympathetic eponymous central protagonist as she first rejects her conscientious objector husband, only to seek atonement years after his death.

The recurrence of unsympathetic protagonists eventually coming to accept their origins or an ideological position they once rejected indicates that Tobias’s literary origins are in Victorian didactic novels – Daniel Deronda, which she adapted for the stage, is a touchstone – yet she tackles the same problems as many more familiar interwar authors. Like Lewis Jones, she struggles to dramatise ideological themes within the confines of the individualistic novel form. Unlike Lewis Jones, she was until recently unjustly forgotten until Honno stepped in.

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