Warmth in de­light­fully or­di­nary Front pages

Im­pos­si­ble Things Be­fore Break­fast

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - By Rebecca Front

Wei­den­feld & Ni­col­son, £16.99 Re­viewed by Si­pora Levy

REBECCA FRONT is an award-win­ning ac­tress, co­me­dian and writer, whose ca­reer has taken her from tele­vi­sion come­dies such as The Thick of It to the se­ri­ous drama of War and Peace. For ra­dio, she has co-scripted and ap­peared in In­cred­i­ble Women with her brother Jeremy, and is also a fre­quent guest on

The News Quiz. She was born and raised in East Lon­don, read English at Ox­ford and was the first fe­male pres­i­dent of the Ox­ford Re­vue. Her first

Rebecca Front book, Cu­ri­ous was short­listed for the Na­tional Book Awards.

Her new col­lec­tion of es­says is sub­ti­tled “Ad­ven­tures in the Or­di­nary”, and though the top­ics are in­deed of the every­day kind — go­ing to the den­tist, hav­ing friends round for din­ner or a hol­i­day by the sea — her acute ob­ser­va­tions and sharp hu­mour lift these ex­pe­ri­ences from the mun­dane to the re­fresh­ingly dif­fer­ent.

She is an ex­tremely per­cep­tive ob­server of peo­ple — in par­tic­u­lar her fam­ily — as well as be­ing aware of her own foibles, all of which im­bues her writ­ing with a warm au­then­tic­ity.

In Heavy Breath­ing she re­lates her ex­pe­ri­ence of at­tend­ing ante-natal classes while her hus­band Phil mostly pre­ferred to watch Chelsea on tele­vi­sion. This story is hi­lar­i­ous and, as else­where, re­veals her abil­ity to con­vey her own vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

The book is not only funny but in places deeply mov­ing. In Girls’ Night Out, she ac­knowl­edges the shock and help­less­ness of los­ing a friend to can­cer. In Im­pen­e­tra­ble, she de­scribes how look­ing at the stars with her teenage son brought them closer to­gether.

Her mem­o­ries move back and forth in time, so we are taken into her child­hood, her ca­reer and her Jewish­ness. Not Nec­es­sar­ily in the Right Or­der is a touch­ing rec­ol­lec­tion of how her non-Jewish act­ing col­leagues staged a sur­prise Seder night for her when she was on tour and un­able to go home to cel­e­brate with her own fam­ily.

Mother Tongue is a sen­si­tive evo­ca­tion of the power of Yid­dish in a nonYid­dish speak­ing world and Dolly and Mil­lie Take Tea is a lov­ing and funny trib­ute to her grand­mother and aunt.

Rebecca Front is an af­fect­ing and el­e­gant writer with a gift for mak­ing the or­di­nary seem ex­tra­or­di­nary. In her pref­ace, she of­fers a clue to her meth­ods: “I watch peo­ple all the time and I’m an in­vet­er­ate eaves­drop­per… I try not to fo­cus on what they’re say­ing, but rather on what they are not say­ing.” Such at­ten­tion to body lan­guage, omis­sions and de­tail in gen­eral, in­fuses her writ­ing through­out this de­light­ful book.

Si­pora Levy is a free­lance re­viewer Lore Se­gal



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