John Gross was the son of a Jewish doctor who practised in Mile End at the time of WW2. His parents were the children of immigrants, steeped in the language and traditions of a European past, yet outside the home he grew up in a very English world of schools and books. Looking back on his childhood he reflects on this double inheritance. The richness of Yiddish words, the rituals of religion set against the daily life of the East End, where gangsters were heroes and patients turned up on the doorstep at all hours. Yet in the background lies the shadow of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. A Double Thread is a marvellously vivid picture of a lost London and a vanished culture but it is also the story of an imaginative boy discovering his own path, through books andfilms and school - away from the East End into the new freedoms of a literary life.
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An elegy for the vanished world of East End Jewry, and, more unconventionally, for that of the literary essay - because, at its best, A Double Thread is less a book than an extended essay of the kind that has all but disappeared from English letters - New Statesman
Gross's nostalgia for the Jewish East End -- the Yiddish newspapers that his father read but he could not, the synagogue that, on a recent visit, he discovers is a Sikh temple -- is interwoven with a nuanced evocation of England in the era of rationing and bomb shelters - New Yorker
Intelligent, humane, highly civilized... the voice we hear not only holds our attention but also wins our affection and respect - Los Angeles Times
John Gross's ambition is to evoke the lost world of Anglo-Yiddishkeit, the matrix of modern Anglo-Jewishness. This he has done lucidly, tenderly, and with good humor. Gross has succeeded in writing an essential book, which, much more than merely loving and nostalgic, is analytically sophisticated with an unerring eye for telling detail - Jewish Chronicle
John Gross has woven a tapestry of subtle contrasts and quiet charm. Relishing his `mixed inheritance', he draws the best from each of his two worlds, doubly enriched. Reading his memoir, I recalled the words of the Jewish poet Paul Celan: `I drink wine from two glasses - Evening Standard
John Gross was theatre critic of the Sunday Telegraph and a former editor of the Times Literary Supplement. For a number of years he was also a staff writer for the New York Times, in New York. His other works include the classic study The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters, and the widely acclaimed Shylock: Four Hundred Years in the Life of a Legend and he edited several anthologies, among them The Oxford Book of Essays and The Oxford Book of English Prose. He died in 2011.