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Phineas Kahn: Portrait Of An Immigrant by Simon Blumenfeld

Simon Blumenfeld’s acclaimed second novel follows the struggles of a Jewish merchant’s son, Phineas Kahn, as he makes his escape from the confines of Tsarist Russia to Vienna and then London in 1900, where he settles to raise a large family in the liberating atmosphere but desperate poverty of the East End. Hard-working and wedded to tradition, Phineas never surrenders in his fight to achieve a better life for his wife and children, who along with his great love of music offer solace in the most difficult times. Phineas Kahn: Portrait Of An Immigrant follows Blumenfeld’s ground-breaking debut Jew Boy, and shows the experience of earlier, first-generation migrants.

Based on tales from Blumenfeld’s own family history, and the lives of people he knew while growing up in Whitechapel, Phineas Kahn opens up a window on the sweatshops, slums and synagogues of the area’s Jewish community in the early decades of the 20th century. Not only a fascinating insight into what was a largely hidden world, Phineas Kahn is also a priceless portrayal – wrapped up in a gripping, warm narrative – of a London now vanished. With Jew Boy and Doctor Of The Lost it forms a loose trilogy that captures the shifting culture, politics and expectations of those who made the East End their home.

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