A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell – Book Review

A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell
Published by Algonquin Books, an imprint of Workman

Set against the backdrop of early 20th century history, in “A Curable Romantic” by Joseph Skibell, we meet Dr. Jakob Sammelsohn, a young Jewish man struggling against his traditional religious background and the scientific progress of the new century. As a young man in Vienna, he falls in love with a young woman at the opera, a woman who is both a patient of Dr. Freud and, possibly, inhabited by a dybbuk of the dead wife Jakob never loved. As he continues to grapple with the inherent contradictions in his life, Sammelsohn is involved first with Dr. Freud, then with the Esperanto movement.

One of my favorite things about historical fiction is learning about topics about which I know nothing. Enter: the society around Dr. Freud and the Esperanto movement. Skibell does a fantastic job of making the time and place come alive. I felt that I could get a firm grasp on the broad historical strokes surrounding both Freud’s early work and the history of the Esperanto movement, and how both of these things attempted to bridge a gap between a past their leaders would see as superstitious and a future that might look upon both of them as naive. I also appreciated the look  at the role of Jews in European society that felt real, without seeming too much like Skibell was trying to get across A. Message. My only qualm with this book is that it was 600 pages long, which was perhaps a little longer than it really needed to  be.

Interesting, well-written, informative historical fiction. Recommended.

Thanks to Beth Fish Reads, who has helped me to become more aware of the imprints I love over the past year, beginning with her Amy Einhorn Perpetual Challenge. Follow her blog for regular spotlights of some of her favorite imprints.

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