This may seem hard for American readers to believe, but we British Jews rarely get to see ourselves reflected in contemporary fiction. While you’ve all spent the past several decades fairly swimming in successful American Jewish fiction — beginning in 1959 with Philip Roth’s debut and lasting right until this year, which has seen works by Michael Chabon, Nathan Englander, Shalom Auslander and more — we over here in the Mother Country have not enjoyed anything of the sort. It may be our own fault for “keeping our heads down,” or it may be that publishers just don’t believe that British non-Jews want to read about us. Most likely it is both. But whatever the reason, the fact is that we lack a great literary novel about mainstream Jews in modern Britain.
Mike Leigh is responsible for some of the best British drama of the past 30 years — both theater and film, including “Abigail’s Party,” “Nuts in May,” Career Girls,” “Naked,” “Life Is Sweet,” “Secrets and Lies,” “Topsy-Turvy,” “All or Nothing,” and last year’s Oscar-nominated “Vera Drake.” But even for a