An Israeli writer takes readers on a romp through tsarist Russia, where a young Jewish mother named Fanny runs off with the town eccentric to find her sister's husband, who has abandoned her and their two children. The secret police get suspicious when they find the trail of murdered bodies that Fanny left behind, including a family of thieves that Fanny, a trained animal butcher, felled in an act of self-protection.
... a sprawling 19th-century tale filled with violence, ancillary subplots and historical tidbits ... Through Fanny’s determined pursuit and Zizek’s military past, Iczkovits explores the richness, complexity and constant peril of Jewish life under the Russian Empire. Both characters are convincingly drawn, particularly in their occasional doubts and irrationality, and as their stories unfold we observe that although lives are often shaped by history and circumstance, character and resolve can resist and transcend the status quo ... Iczkovits repeatedly implies that our relative comfort is founded on indifference and injustice. But if he also believes in our moral obligation to act, this message is severely undercut by the plot of his novel, in which Fanny’s attempts to set things right are accompanied by an inordinate degree of collateral damage ... Fluently translated ... exhibits some trappings of the picaresque novel, including a broad cast of supporting characters whose misadventures steer us away from the main narrative for a bit too long. Likewise, the plot suffers from an overreliance on coincidence; there are too many chance encounters, flukes and a statistically improbable number of uneducated orphans who become influential officers ... Nevertheless, it’s a genuine pleasure to see all of the different strands of the story come together in the final act. If the Coen brothers ever ventured beyond the United States for their films, they would find ample material in this novel, which offers a familiar mix of dark humor and casual brutality — and an ultimately hopeful search for small comforts and a modicum of justice in an absurd and immoral world.
Yaniv Iczkovits’s brilliant, sweeping novel The Slaughterman’s Daughter is set in tsarist Russia during the late nineteenth century, but it feels highly relevant and resonant today. It is filled with exquisitely drawn characters often seeking some sort of redemption that remains out of reach ... Iczkovits...ultimately seems to recoil from ideas of Jewish insularity and exclusivity, preferring to focus on how Jews can live alongside others without all the fascination. It is a bold, provocative move on the part of the author.
... a rich and enchanting adventure novel, the kind of story telling that we all crave from time to time and that you so rarely see in a serious novel these days. Iczkovits has written a grand sweeping epic, a tale you can get lost in, even enraptured by, it has charm and wit and heft. For me The Slaughterman’s Daughter was an antidote to the blues inducing effect of a couple of cold dark rainy winter nights. This leviathan of a book is a tale that mixes folklore and imaginative flights of fancy with a insightful glimpse of the history of czarist Russia ... It is both flamboyant and exuberant, compassionate and emotionally complex, heart warming and poignant ... a story that refuses to adhere to natural boundaries, that bifurcates, meanders and merges at a confluence as the mood takes it. This is a matryoshka doll of a story, tales within tales within tales. An historical romp that plays fast and loose with fact but not with that essential emotional truth, a beguiling distortion of the past that brings the Jewish experience of the Russian empire into focus. Surprises abound, hardships are endured ... Big, brash and beautiful. A bravura translation from the Hebrew by Orr Scharf.