I was the prodigal daughter, off on an adventure aged 19, shedding one life for another, leaving my large, extended, all-enveloping, Jewish family behind. By the time I reached 50, when so many of them had gone, I began to feel I owed them an incalculable debt, for the love they’d bestowed on me and the riches they bequeathed. I don’t mean riches in the ordinary sense, but the richness of the culture I’d been born and nurtured in, all but forgotten in my Australian sojourn.
The book is composed of fragments, as more and more bits of that past life came rushing back to me. Their faces, what I could recapture of their stories, the intonations of the Yiddish they spoke, opened up a past as much mine as their own. Numbers, as in the book of the Old Testament, the Jewish prayer ‘number my days’ and the Kabbala are symbolic elements in the glue that holds the story together, as is the Fibonacci Sequence.
Sapphires, published in 1995, won the ACT Book of the Year award, was short-listed for the Steele Rudd award, and long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin prize. It was reviewed widely, but sad to say, most extracts on my previous website are gone. Yet hunting for them I happened upon one on the web – as good as any that I’ve lost.
Out of print for many years, Sapphires has recently been given new life in digital and print form as Book 106 in the Untapped Ligature series available Amazon, Booktopia and in libraries throughout Australia: “Drawing on the Yiddish tradition of story-telling, the award-winning Sapphires is constructed of thirteen interlinked stories that tell of journeys in the lives of the descendants of Ruchel Kozminsky who left Russia in the 1890s—Miriam, Bernice, Janet, Alice and most centrally Evelyn, a Sydney-based television comedy writer. A haunting, evocative and often funny account of love, family and belonging.”
“Brilliant like sapphires, individual gems, the short stories are complete in themselves – an interconnected compilation covering several generations and several branches of a Jewish family in several countries of the world, strung together with linking chains to form a single bracelet, a family saga, a whole book.” Jud’s Creative Writing Medley
“Sara Dowse has a strong sense of the storyteller’s craft. Her best stories (and this book has many of them) give the impression of having been written intuitively. The words are always just right and the reader is drawn along by the expectation that something important will happen. When the end of the story is reached you are left with the strong impression of having participated in an event of great, indefinable richness.” Canberra Times