Lorri M. Book Review: The Life of Gluckel of Hameln: A Memoir

gluckel of hameln The Life of Gluckel of Hameln-written by herself: A Memoir, translated from the Yiddish by Beth-Zion Abrahams, is quite the fascinating read, although written in Yiddish, initially, this book was actually a series of diaries written by the author for her children. They weren’t written in anticipation of them being published as a memoir.

Centuries later, her story comes to light, and with it an incredible description of life in Germany in the 17th Century. From one woman’s pen comes a multitude of historical references and insights.

Life for women was difficult enough during Gluckel’s time period, never mind the fact that she was a widow and mother of twelve. From daily life descriptions to interactions with the world outside, the story behind her life and the lives of her children is astonishing for its historical content and context.

She was a proud woman, proud of her business acumen, and proud of the fact that she strove to raise her children in the best possible light, giving them not only emotional nourishment, the necessities and much more, but also monetary sums to help them survive their adult circumstances.

Her writing transcends generations and centuries, and transports the reader back in time, to the realities of life’s struggles and harshness, especially for women. Life was difficult enough for a man to make his way into the world, striving to care for his family. Being a woman made the adversities more demanding to overcome. Adding children to the demands of daily living and survival, made Gluckel’s accomplishments more amazing.

She was married twice, and after the death of her first husband she began to write a diary to help her during sleepless nights. She eventually remarried, and continued writing, once again, after the death of her second husband. Writing consoled her, and she felt she was leaving a legacy for her children and any future descendants. She wanted them to be proud of their heritage, and felt the writings would cement that pride.

The memoir was translated from her journals. Through the plague, wars, births, deaths and Jewish life, Gluckel’s memoir is an astounding and descriptive look into Jewish life and into the history of the time period. Current events are chronicled, and Jewish life, practices and traditions are documented. The word imagery is quite vivid, and this reader could envision the scenarios presented.

The writing might seem a bit awkward and/or mundane for some readers, but one must take into account the time period of the memoir. The translator, did not stray from the original diaries and embellish entries, but chose to translate it as accurately as possible. That Gluckel wrote as masterfully as she did, is a tribute to her, as an individual, and a tribute to her goals to leave a legacy for her family. She did that and more, leaving the world a memoir of important historical value.

I recommend The Life of Gluckel of Hameln: A Memoir.

August 13, 2013 – 7 Elul, 5773

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6 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Jewish History, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Memoirs, Non-Fiction

6 responses to “Lorri M. Book Review: The Life of Gluckel of Hameln: A Memoir

  1. I visited the cemetery where she and her family are buried and it was very moving. But I am ashamed to say that I have not read her book, yet! Thanks for the reminder!

  2. I bet it was moving! Thank you for visiting.

  3. This sounds like a very fascinating book. I would think a woman’s perspective during that time frame is very unusual.

  4. “life in Germany in the 17th Century” – certainly a period I would like to learn more about. Thank you for this review – I’ll add to my to read list.

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