|The Association of Jewish Libraries AJL Newsletter
Vol. XXX, No. 1,
Reviews of Titles for Adults
Edited by Merrily F. Hart and Daniel Scheide
Miller, Lily Poritz. In a Pale Blue Light: A Novel.
Toronto: Sumach Press, 2009
256 p. $24.95 (ISBN 978-1-89454-983-7).
Set in Cape Town in the years before and during the Second World War, the story is
narrated through the eyes of Libka, the twelve-year-old daughter of Eastern European
immigrants, at a vulnerable moment in her life, when she must help her mother and her
younger siblings cope with the sudden death of their father.
Possibly a result of the author’s long absence from South Africa, the novel has an almost
dream-like haunting quality. The story takes place away from the popular Jewish ghetto in
Maynard Street. The author brings alive a lesser-known neighbourhood that has today
been converted into an up-market boutique area known as the Cape Quarter.
With a lyrical sensitivity Miller captures the ambiance of the Cape’s diverse population
groups. Her protagonist, Libka, displays a political maturity beyond her years, and her
defiance results in her expulsion from her school and ostracism from her peers. Her
insights and reactions to different circumstances shed light on South Africa’s racially
divided society and on its Jewish community.
Many autobiographical memoirs have been written since the dawn of democracy in South
Africa in 1994. This fictionalized memoir has an added freshness and originality, and is
highly recommended for synagogue and research libraries.
Veronica Belling, University of Cape Town, SA