Review From User :
Wow! What a read! I loved Emma Richler's Be My Wolff! I'm so glad I purchased this book after reading a free sample online. This exciting tapestry of a novel is well-worth buying. If you love reading, and want to delve into something truly fresh and original, this is the book for you. Richler is a virtuoso of storytelling. This is a story about stories, and its many skeins are artfully intertwined. It's a complex work, and I can't praise it enough!
Be My Wolff begins with Rachel and Zachariah Wolff, a couple who live together in London. Rachel is the daughter of Russian emigres, and when she was nine-years-old, her parents adopted eight-year-old Zach. Obviously, over time, Rachel and Zach grew closer than siblings. Their father Lev now shuns Zach, not just for Zach's relationship with Rachel, but because he chose to become a boxer instead of going the way of the Wolff family and pursuing a career in the arts and sciences. As children, Rachel and Zach made up adventures of a fictional 19th century pugilist, with real historical figures thrown into the mix. Rachel, now an artist, starts work on these tales again, inventing a fictional heritage for her beloved Zach, who was a foundling of unknown origins. The novel deftly moves between Zach and Rachel's present, flashbacks of their childhood, and the historical story Rachel is working on. Richler employs great, seamless transitions for the flashbacks. Something in the present often triggers a memory for Rachel and Zach and connects us right back to the past. Another narrative thread of the novel are tales of the Wolff family and their ancestors. There is so much going on, but it's all interconnected. This is a book about fate, patterns, and the interconnectedness of things.
For many reasons, Be My Wolff is a pleasure to read. The wordplay and erudition recall Lolita. Be My Wolff rich in language and discussion of word etymology. The voluble characters have rich, witty, and intelligent dialogue. Zach and Rachel are endlessly curious and enthusiastic about the topics they love. That enthusiasm is infectious to the reader. Throughout, the inside jokes and songs and little things within a family add a realistic touch. These are the things people say that no one outside the family would understand, but Richler lets us in on it without over explaining. It feels like we're part of this world and family. Richler employs a great vocabulary throughout the work, and there is a handy glossary at the back. I appreciate that she writes the historical portions of the story in the style of the times, using period vernacular.
This book is right up my alley. The story of Zach and Rachel definitely evokes Cathy and Heathcliff, from Wuthering Heights. Zach and Rachel have a romantic, heart wrenching love story, and the reader can't help but hope they'll beat the odds. I loved the repeated refrains and motifs. I loved the complexity and the non-linear narrative. Family drama, Russian fairy tales, the history of families, and the histories of Russia and England are all stitched together by Richler like a master embroiderer. There's material on boxing, art, science, the Napoleonic Wars, and Dickensian London. It's a vivid saga about the love between brothers and sisters.
I think Be My Wolff would appeal to fans of novels such as The Queen of the Night, A God in Ruins, and The Luminaries. Works that are wide in scope and innovative in construction. This is such an inventive, masterful novel. Richler has such a unique way of describing things and such a distinct, well-crafted style. I hope Be My Wolff gets nominated for literary awards, like the Man Booker Prize. It deserves it. I can't wait to read more by Richler.
***Genre: Fiction: Romance, Literature, Cultural, Humor