For many readers, Linda Hunt Beckman provides a first introduction to Amy Levy, a too-little-known late-19th-century woman of letters.

If Levy is remembered at all in modern lettes, it as the author of "Reuben Sachs," a novel about Jewish life in London which was excoriated as anti-Semitic in the Jewish press when it was published in the late 1880s. But the story is ironic: Amy Levy was Jewish herself, and an outsider in more ways than one. An educated woman in a time women were mostly excluded from professional employment, nearly deaf, and probably a lesbian, Levy committed suicide in 1889 at the age of 27.

This intriguing biography takes Levy's life and work as a case study in fin-de-siecle culture. Beckman's narrative reconstructs the inner life of a woman who never felt entirely at home, whose entire sense of self was constructed around exclusion. "Amy Levy" skillfully draws a parallel between the paradoxes of Jewish life in a large European city, in which one might assimilate yet remain a member of an unassimilable group, and the similar existential difficulties faced by educated women at the turn of the last century.

This biography leaves the reader wishing Levy had lived to write more. Thanfully and at very least, she has found a biographer to do her justice.

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