"The Book of Faith grew from a kernel of an idea for a lighthearted novel about friendship in women’s lives. I had in mind three friends, roughly the three women at the core of this book. I also doodled with the notion of setting my characters in the context of a community, with all that entails in terms of sustenance, succour, and – yes – of comedy. Perhaps it could be a synagogue community? There had been several novels in recent years depicting the lives of ultra-Orthodox women. Maybe this one could focus on a liberal congregation?
I wanted to situate my novel four-square in Montreal, more specifically the city’s West End. I loved the very thought of peppering the narrative with West-End references. My characters would favour places that offered a shtickl cake on Monkland or Queen Mary or Greene Avenue, over downtown bars or trendy Plateau bistros.
Between the time I began to plan and when I actually started writing, my universe darkened. I lost first one – and then within a few years another – of my closest friends. Precious relationships I came to realize weren’t necessarily forever. "
And yet I didn’t want to write a sombre book. I still wanted it to be funny. So that became my balancing act for the project: to teeter between life’s random cruelty and its sudden shafts of joy."
--Elaine Kalman Naves
Elaine travelled to Germany to take part in the trial of Oskar Groening. To learn more about her story, read more about it in the following links:
News coverage from Canada:
News coverage from Germany:
Welcome to the website of Montreal writer, journalist, editor, and lecturer Elaine Kalman Naves. Elaine was born in Hungary, and grew up in Budapest, London, and Montreal. For many years she was literary columnist for the Montreal Gazette, and is the author of eight books. Among them are the award-winning memoirs Journey to Vaja: Reconstructing the World of a Hungarian-Jewish Family and Shoshanna's Story: A Mother, A Daughter, and the Shadows of History. Elaine's other books include: The Writers of Montreal; Putting Down Roots: Montreal's Immigrant Writers; Storied Streets: Montreal in the Literary Imagination (co-written with Bryan Demchinsky); and Robert Weaver: Godfather of Canadian Literature. Elaine is a frequent contributor to CBC Radio's Ideas, where her most recent project was about the great 19th-century Montreal photographer, William Notman. Elaine's honours include a Canadian Literary Award for Personal Essay, two Quebec Writers' Federation prizes for non-fiction, and two Jewish Book Awards for Holocaust Literature. Her 2013 book, Portrait of a Scandal: The Abortion Trial of Robert Notman, shed light on a secret page in Canadian history. The Book of Faith, Elaine’s latest title, is her first novel. The book was published in September by Linda Leith Publishing.
"Smart yet tender, funny yet deep, The Book of Faith, is a sly, witty send-up of squabble-filled synagogue politics ...".
– Yona Zeldis McDonough, The Lilith Blog.
"In The Book of Faith, Elaine Kalman Naves is as wise about 21st century synagogue intrigues and middle-age romances as Jane Austen was about early 19th century English drawing rooms. In fact, if Austen were around today—and Jewish, of course—I’m betting this is the kind of novel she’d be writing. Kalman Naves’s story of love and loss, female friendship and hard-earned resilience is fast-paced, heartfelt and sharply observant. The Book of Faith is a serious delight."
– Joel Yanofsky, author of Bad Animals and Mordecai & Me.
"The Book of Faith is an incisive, funny, and moving exploration of the lives of three women – one of them the eponymous Faith – over the course of a tumultuous year and a half of challenges both personal and public. Conveying the particulars of Jewish Montreal with an almost documentary realism, it will speak powerfully to anyone who has tried to integrate their own ethnic and religious heritage into contemporary society."
– Susan Glickman, author of The Tale-Teller and Safe as Houses.
"Jane Austen and Mordecai Richler are not names that suggest an immediate association. But they are the antecedents that the publisher of Elaine Kalman Naves's debut novel invokes to describe the story of three women--known as the Three Graces--who worship at the same Montreal synagogue. Naves, a former literary columnist for the Montreal Gazette, examines friendship among women in the context of faith and religious politics.The documentary-like dissection of contemporary women's lives recalls Austen; the scabrous humour and contemporary Montreal setting suggest Richler."
– Quill & Quire, October 2015.
Interview in Montreal Review of Books by Sarah Fletcher
Read the article
"This history has it all: desire and illicit sex, privilege and penury, fame and infamy, the dramatic momentum of an absorbing novel. ...
"Kalman Naves have a novelist's eye and a historian's sleuth-like instincts, with the tenacity of both."
– Ami Sands Brodoff
"Portrait of a Scandal has the air, build-up and tension of a courtroom procedural as historian Elaine Kalman Naves skillfully leads us through the abortion trial of Robert Notman, brother and trusted associate of the great photographer, William Notman. At a time when desperate North American women turned to abortion to end unwanted pregnancies, the judge made Robert’s trial a showcase for his personal vendetta against “this germ of destruction, this moral epidemic” rotting society. In Kalman Naves’ capable hands, Notman’s story is a spellbinding glimpse into the intimate lives of privileged Montrealers, illustrated by stunning photographs of all the principal characters, including Notman’s flamboyant defence lawyer and his nemesis, the plodding but determined prosecutor, and even the doctor who committed suicide [over the case].”
– Elizabeth Abbott