Review of Bertrand Court by Michelle Brafman

Betrand Court is a novel that revolves around the lives of several friends, family members and in-laws (most of them Jewish) living in the Washington DC area. The story spans over decades.

If it seems as though I’m struggling to come up with a clear book description for Bertrand Court it’s because I am. Calling it a “captivating novel told in story form, intertwining seventeen luminous narratives about the secrets of a cast of politicos, filmmakers, and housewives, all tied to a suburban Washington, DC, cul-de-sac” is probably about as close to an actual book description as you’re going to get and this was the main issue I had with the book.

There never seems to be a clear focus. It reads much more like a somewhat connected short story collection (sort of) than a novel. Characters appear, disappear and then reappear again. POV bounces around. Time period bounces around. As soon as I thought we were getting to something interesting, the author changed it up again. This made it extremely difficult to connect with the characters. It also made it difficult to maintain interest. I grew bored quickly and had trouble finishing, yet I still did just to see where things would go.

There were many Yiddish words sprinkled throughout. Aside from yenta and putz I’m lost when it comes to Yiddish, so I found it slightly annoying to have to keep wondering what all the Yiddish words meant. The reappearing ice box cake reference got on my nerves.

I didn’t hate this book; it was more that I was frustrated. The author’s writing is intelligent, but it’s clear that her background is in writing short fiction stories and essays (as it says in her bio). I was expecting a novel, as it states in the description, but instead I received a book of somewhat connected/disconnected short stories and I felt a bit cheated.

3 of 5 Stars, Review by Susan Barton