Book Review – Jew(ish) by Matt Greene

First published, 2020

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This part-memoir, part-essay on growing up Jewish, but lapsed, in nineties North London is incisive, profound and highly recommended.

I grew up in South London, a year or two earlier, and the questioning of self, background and identity, amid a backdrop of patient exhaustion feels very familiar.

Mr Greene doesn’t shy away from the more difficult subjects: the political climate in the UK, travels to Poland and the subject of Israel, but he does so with such quiet authority that the writing is comfortably clever. By turns, it is heartfelt, agonising and hilarious. I loved it.

There were moments when I laughed openly and loudly enough to alarm my Labrador.
“In the run-up to Passover, my mum would clean the house so thoroughly the floors got lower.”
Page 15, Chapter One: God, Jew(ish) by Matt Greene

When speaks to his brother, a primary school teacher, about security, my heart nearly stopped:

“‘By eight or nine the kids are very aware of anti-Semitism. We do intruder drills once a term. We start at age four…’”
Page 75, Chapter Four: Security, Jew(ish) by Matt Greene

And the section on conspiracy theorists contained such a loud echo to the hushed whispers around the Covid vaccine, that I felt as if I’d travelled through the looking glass.
(of David Icke) A professional lunatic and former sports reporter who in 1991 went on Wogan, dressed in a pink-and-green shell suit, to discuss claims (his) that he was the son of God. A man who believes the Queen Mother belonged to a race of inter dimensional shape-shifting reptiles, Icke has seen something of a resurgence in respectability in recent years. No longer the punchline he was for most of the nineties, Icke has spent the past two decades selling out venues around the world, talking, sometimes for up to ten hours, to audiences eager to hear about how their lives are governed by a shadowy global elite intent on maintaining their subservience.”
Page 136, Chapter Seven: The Internet, Jew(ish) by Matt Greene

An astonishing, thought-provoking, beautiful book. I felt like I was reading the words of a friend.