The Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize

16th November 2016

Atlantic Books is delighted to announce that Ian Buruma’s wonderful memoir Their Promised Land has been longlisted for the 2017 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize. Established in 1977, the annual prize, worth £4,000  is awarded to the best book, fiction or non-fiction, to translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader, and its illustrious winners include Amos Oz, David Grossman, Zadie Smith, and Oliver Sacks.

Their Promised Land reads like a novel – a nostalgic saga assimilated Jewish family living in England throughout the upheavals of the twentieth century, but it is – in fact – a love story – the true love story of Ian Buruma’s maternal grandparents, Bernard and Winifred (Bun & Win), who wrote to each other regularly throughout their life together. The first letters were written in 1915, when Bun was still at school at Uppingham and Win was taking music lessons in Hampstead. They were married for more than sixty years, but the heart of their remarkable story lies within the span of the two world wars.

After a brief separation, when Bernard served as a stretcher bearer on the Western Front during the Great War, the couple exchanged letters whenever they were apart. Most of them were written during the Second World War and their correspondence is filled with vivid accounts of wartime activity at home and abroad. Bernard was stationed in India as an army doctor, while Win struggled through wartime privation and the Blitz to hold her family together which including their eldest son, the later film director John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, Sunday Bloody Sunday), and twelve Jewish children they had arranged to be rescued from Nazi Germany.

Their letters are a priceless record of the sustaining power of a family’s love and devotion through very dark days – moving, rich, and with effortless prose, it is a worthy member of the longlist – all fingers are crossed.