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Melting Point: Family, Memory and the Search for a Promised Land

Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781035408917

Price: £25

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A truly radical book; radical in subject, radical in form. For the most tragic reasons, it could not feel more immediate; and yet it’s a fluid, fast-paced, hugely enjoyable and engaging read.’ – Andrew Marr

Meticulously researched, elegantly constructed, unforgettable.’ – Jonathan Freedland

‘This is an extraordinarily original way of writing memoir, history and truth. An enthralling book and a wonderful new writer.’ Laura Cumming

On June 7th 1907, a ship packed with Russian Jews sets sail into the Atlantic. It is heading not to Jerusalem or New York, as many on board have dreamt, but to Texas. The man who persuades the passengers to go is David Jochelmann, Rachel Cockerell’s great-grandfather. It marks the beginning of the Galveston Movement, a forgotten moment in history when 10,000 Jews fled to Texas in the lead-up to WWI.

The charismatic leader of the movement is Jochelmann’s closest friend, Israel Zangwill, whose beloved novels have made him a household name across Europe and America. As Russia becomes infected by anti-Semitic violence, and Theodor Herzl tries and fails to create a Jewish state, Zangwill embarks on a desperate search across the continents for a temporary homeland: from Australia to Canada, Angola to Antarctica. He reluctantly settles on Galveston, Texas. He fears the Jewish people will be absorbed into the great American melting pot, but there is no other hope.

The story is told in a highly inventive format: there is no 21st-century narration. Instead the author weaves together a vivid and colourful account from an extraordinary array of sources – letters, diaries, memoirs, newspaper articles and interviews. Melting Point follows Zangwill and the Jochelmann family through two world wars, to London, New York and Jerusalem – as their lives intertwine with some of the most significant figures of the twentieth century, and each chooses whether to cling to their history, or brush it off like dust and melt into their new surroundings. It is a story that asks questions of belonging, identity, and what can be salvaged from the past.

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Reviews

Strikingly original ... Cockerell succeeds admirably in her stated intention to tell this little-known story in a way that is more like a novel than a work of history.
The Bookseller
A truly radical book; radical in subject, radical in form. For the most tragic Reasons, it could not feel more immediate; and yet it's a fluid, fast-paced, hugely enjoyable and engaging read.
Andrew Marr
At a time when there is so much false history and misleading mythology about Israel and Zionism, this gripping account of Jews seeking sanctuary from Europe's deadly antisemitism is a timely and necessary work that deserves to be widely read. Their desperation, hope, idealism and determination to survive leaves a profound sense of a people in need of a home, wherever they could find one.
Dave Rich, author of Everyday Hate
Meticulously researched, elegantly constructed, unforgettable
Jonathan Freedland, author of The Escape Artist
Utterly compelling, at times amusing, at times heartbreaking. The characters of Melting Point will live with you long after the final page
Antonia Fraser
Cockerell deftly interweaves memoir with world-changing events and tells a story that is both important and beautiful. This is a riveting, timeless and timely book. It is history that reads like a novel. Melting Point is simply extraordinary
Ariana Neumann
It is every historian's challenge to make their readers feel present in the past. With innovative stylistic daring and a wonderful gift for narrative, Rachel Cockerell succeeds triumphantly. This exceptionally moving, multigenerational story ranges across continents and time, addressing the biggest questions of identity, hope and belonging, while never losing touch with the humanity of her extraordinary ancestors
Juliet Nicolson
A strikingly original, brilliantly crafted, vividly drawn work of history and memoir - Cockerell's storytelling brings the period to life
Paul Caruana Galizia, author of A Death in Malta
A fascinating saga, full of unexpected twists and encounters ranging across continents, compellingly told through contemporary snippets and insights. A bold and surprisingly successful formula
Adam Zamoyski, author of Napoleon and Poland: A History
Rachel Cockerell has crafted a superbly original work of narrative history - an epic tale of memory and migration. It would be difficult to read this superb book and remain unmoved.
Francisco Garcia, author of We All Go Into the Dark
Melting Point possessed me entirely. I kept thinking this shouldn't really work, but it does much much more than work. It's the most extraordinarily original, resonant, powerful rendering of the history it imparts - although it never feels like a history. And nor does it feel like a fiction. It feels like its own thing entirely. Hard to think of anything more vital right now. It really is an astonishing book, and one I hope so many people will read and learn from.
Devorah Baum, author of On Marriage
Cockerell tells the entire story through extracts from newspaper reports, letters, memoirs, documents and interviews. This is an ambitious and high-risk venture. Yet she pulls it off with verve. She handles her material with a maestro's touch.
The Times
A fabulous family history ... Cockerell has an unerring eye for selecting, editing and juxtaposing the most revealing quotations. So the result feels deeply immersive and dramatic. One gets a thrilling sense of history unfolding in real time, of people confused and flailing about in response to immediate events without any sense of what we know now. An exceptionally vivid and compelling family history.
The Observer
Cockerell's approach, drawing together a vast range of original source material, bring s her cast of characters to life with vivacity, their idiosyncrasies and foibles intact.
The Telegraph
ingenious ... wonderfully vital and idiosyncratic, a model of how history writing can be made fresh ... an innovative and immediate account of a story that has world-historical significance.
The Guardian
This is an extraordinarily original way of writing memoir, history and truth. An enthralling book and a wonderful new writer
Laura Cumming