By the Waters of Whitechapel

By the Waters of Whitechapel

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Aubrey Field, thirty-five, balding, and not exactly slim, daydreams of a rich future. "I want my life to bear fruit," he cries, but home is with his mother above a sweetshop in Whitechapel. They are among the few survivors of what was once a large local community and they live, surrounded by strangers, in the house where Aubrey was born. Suffocating but resigned, Aubrey cannot leave Whitechapel, and he cannot leave his mother. "It was useless, he was trapped. She would never let him go." Then fate, in the guise of Zena, the beautiful blonde daughter of a kosher butcher, intervenes. From the moment Aubrey meets this femme fatale, life becomes enormously more complicated. In pursuit of Zena, Aubrey determines to break free. He passes himself off as a young barrister with a fast sports car and forges his mother's signature to a check. One incredible experience follows another, and for a while it seems as though Aubrey's fantasies are about to become reality. Against the background of a Jewish East London that is fading and changing, Bernard Kops's new novel is a novel to remember. It is at once funny and macabre, and it cuts deep into the quixotic posturing of a man who is both pathetic and endearing. Aubrey Field finally escapes from his mother and his despair, but not in the way that he or anyone else could possibly have imagined.