Saturday, January 07, 2012

Sons of Israel

By Douglas Ponton
279 pages
Cover art by Richard Stroud

Hugh Whitby, a British sports’ journalist and chess fan, explores revelations about his paternal grandfather, Vladimir Salutsky, a Russian immigrant to Britain in the 1920s, who disappeared leaving Hugh’s grandmother to look after their son by herself. Hugh had never heard his grandfather’s name mentioned in the Whitby family. His pushy wife Abigail engages a private detective, and they learn that he had been an immensely wealthy and influential Jewish architect. Salutsky, in fact, was one of the financiers of the ‘Exodus’ project to repatriate European Jews in Israel in 1948. Together with his twin brother, Yusef, who was on board the ship, he was part of a political movement whose aim was the equal division of land between Arab and Jew. Helped by detective and chess fanatic David King, Hugh embarks on a personal odyssey to explore his own Hebrew roots.

Meanwhile Abigail wants to get her hands on a share of the architect’s vast wealth, which has all passed to the state of Israel. A clever plot unravels like a chess game through many twists and turns; the story has moments of tension and drama, but also of comedy. At the heart of it is an appeal for 'the lion to lie down with the lamb', a political message of perennial relevance.

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