Chair of judges Shoshana Boyd Gelfand said: “This year’s Wingate long list was so strong it was an almost impossible task to agree on just six titles for a short list.
“Throughout our process we agreed to consider each book on its own merit, based on our agreed criteria. The result is that five of our six chosen books are works of fiction – something we believe reflects the extraordinarily high quality of fiction submissions this year, which we found to be an exciting development for the field of Jewish writing. The judges felt that many of our chosen short list have used the power of fiction to address important historical, political and ethical themes in ways which are usually addressed by works of non-fiction.
“In addition, four of our six books are written by women, another positive development and one that we hope continues. When we started our judging process, we hoped to discover books that explored Jewish issues in novel and compelling ways. Without exception, these short list books fulfill those expectations. We hope all readers will feel similarly.”
The origins of Rachel’s predicament date back to the days of the Roman occupation of Jerusalem, a world Horn recreates with a deft and convincing touch. As a teenager, Rachel falls in love with Elazar, rakish son of the high priest. As their illicit romance twists and turns, the lovers end up making a vow at the Temple, the consequences of which — eternal life for both of them — only become clear decades later. As is often the case in Horn’s fiction, Jewish history and the lives of her fictional characters wrap around one another, as Rachel’s realization of her inescapable immortality coincides with a brilliant and brutal depiction of the destruction of the ancient Temple, one of the novel’s high points.