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Tevye's Daughters by Sholom Aleichem

Tevye's Daughters

by Sholom Aleichem

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221483,561 (3.83)16
Tevye's Daughters is the book that was made into the blockbuster play and movie, "Fiddler on the Roof." This movie brought us such famous and universally recognizable songs as "If I were a Rich Man," "Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make me a Match," "Tradition" and "Sunrise, Sunset." Trvye the dairyman is one of the most delightful and amusing characters in all of fiction, and this chronicle of Tevye and his daughters is, beyond question, the great Jewish humorist's masterpiece. Tevye was baffled by his daughters. That he had seven daughters and no sons-well, that was God's will, and Tevye loved them all dearly. And the girls-ah, their world revolved around papa and they gave him all their devotion. But as they grew up, they saw that the world was big and changing, that there were other ideas and other people. What made it so difficult for Tevye was not that they were such fine and lovely girls - dark-eyed Beilke, laughing Sprintze, brave Hodel - but that they had minds and wills of their own. Tevye couldn't quite understand that - it wasn't supposed to be that way. His gay heart was heavy at times, and the girls mixed tears with their laughter. When you have read this book, you will know why many Jews refer to Sholom Aleichem not as "the great Jewish humorist," but rather as one of "the greatest writers of our time." There are short stories in this book too: "If I Were Rothschild," "The Littlest of Kings," and a dozen others that display Sholom Aleichem's wonderful storytelling gift at its best.… (more)



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I most highly recommend this collection of stories illuminating Jewish village life in Russia during the last days of the csars. Not all of the stories in this collection deal with the experiences and tribulations of Tevye the dairyman, a character made familiar by the rendering in the musical, Fiddler on the Roof. The Tevye stories, six or seven in all, are scattered throughout the collection and certainly provide the collection's backbone.

Aleichem, who of course knew his subject matter intimately, makes vivid the daily existence of Tevye and his townspeople, the slow erosion of their way of life and the slowly increasing hardships they endure, brought about by steadily more restrictive and punitive laws handed down against Russian Jews by czarist officials desperate to retain power.

Aleichem uses the daughters, and especially the marriages they make, to illustrate the ways in which the passing of time changes the family's experiences. When Tevye, distraught over his youngest daughter Bielke's choice for a husband, tells her (and for the rest, now, I will paraphrase, for I do not have the book in front of me), "Hodel (her much older sister) wouldn't do what you're doing," Bielke replies sharply, "Don't compare me with Hodel. Hodel married in Hodel's time, and I am marrying in my time." To provide more detail would create spoilers. To truly savor this book, a reader must experience each event along with the characters. You already know enough of the basic story if you've seen the play, although the differences in plot detail are considerable.

The joy is all bittersweet, here, and the tragedy, for Tevye personally and for his people, is ever-present and ever-increasing. And yet the book, as with all wonderfully written literature, is uplifting nevertheless. ( )
  rocketjk | Sep 21, 2015 |
The stories on which Fiddler on the Roof is based
  Folkshul | Jan 15, 2011 |
Have finally read this all the way through after owning it for 30 years. Gently told tales of life amongst Russian jews 100 years ago. Not all are about Tevye and his daughters (many different narrators) but all are set in the same area. Often humerous, they are laced with a dreadful sadness as they tell of poverty and persecution endured with fatalism. Beautiful and sad. ( )
  Figgles | Aug 24, 2009 |
This work is best know through the musical Fiddler on the Roof. Here we have the origional text which inspired this much loved musical, and we find the opportunity to go deeper into the stories of Tevye. A real treat. ( )
  hatterluke | Apr 2, 2008 |
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