Books: Notable Davita's Harp

by Chaim Potok Knopf; 371 pages; $16.95

The earnest radicalism of the 1930s has become familiar terrain for fiction. Chaim Potok, a chronicler of the factions within American Jewish culture (The Chosen, My Name Is Asher Lev), assiduously attempts to freshen the milieu: his title character and narrator is a thoughtful, believable preadolescent girl; her father is a celebrated radical journalist from an old-line, plutocratic Wasp family, her mother a Jewish emigre.

The narrative deftly captures Davita's particular sense of placelessness and evokes a child's view of events. But in explaining the parents' political fervor and in analyzing their times, Davita's Harp too often limits itself to predictable...

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