Review from London, 1958. It’s the eve of the sexual revolution, but in Juliet Montague’s conservative Jewish community where only men can divorce women, she ¬finds herself a living widow, invisible. Ever since her husband disappeared seven years ago, Juliet has been a hardworking single mother of two and unnaturally practical. But on her thirtieth birthday, that’s all about to change. A wealthy young artist asks to paint her portrait, and Juliet, moved by the powerful desire to be seen, enters into the burgeoning art world of 1960s London, which will bring her fame, fortune, and a life-long love affair.
The Amazon review only gives a fraction of what’s to come in this wonderful, engrossing novel. I seldom award 5 stars, but the book gets my wholehearted 5 stars. I devoured it in one sitting, again, something I seldom do.
It’s a rich story, dealing with the world of conservative Jewish tradition, with the vibrant London art world set as counterpoint. As you can imagine, there’s ample scope for a contrasting cast of characters . We meet Juliet’s mother, Mrs Greene – the uber respectable Jewish mother, alternately bewildered and outraged by Juliet’s non-conformist behaviour. Especially when her daughter takes a goy lover (shock! horror!) the reclusive artist Max Langford, permanently scarred by his war experiences.
Juliet, after surviving seven years as an ‘aguna’ (a living widow) desperately wants a life outside the confines of her small London Jewish community. Once she stumbles into the vibrant London art world, she soon finds it. Some years later she bravely travels to the USA, the two kids in tow, in search of her errant husband, who she finally finds in LA : how much further could you get from a conservative Jewish London suburb? The location of her husband is the least of her shocking discoveries. I’ll leave it at that, so as not to release a spoiler.
What a life Juliet leads, what a book. I was so enthralled that I forgot to get cross about restrictive, outmoded, patriarchal practices such as aguna. Natasha Solomons is a great storyteller.
Highly recommended.

One thought on “THE GALLERY OF VANISHED HUSBANDS – Natasha Solomons

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s