In a recent Bookseller interview, Zoe Heller could be found fretting about the likely public response to feisty Mrs Audrey Litvinoff, the female lead in The Believers. It was possible, Heller conceded, that plain-speaking Mrs L (who at one point responds to a woman bringing news of her lawyer husband’s courtroom stroke with ‘Yeah right love, I don’t need the police procedural’) might be a little too rebarbative for the general taste. After three or four hours spent in Mrs Litvinoff’s company I can confirm that her creator’s instinct is correct. She is indeed a nightmare, her succession of strops, sulks and brutal insults matched only by her husband’s habit of returning bar mitzvah invitations with the words THERE IS NO GOD scrawled on them.
Zoe Heller’s third novel surveys in quite merciless detail an entity that, in the run-up to a presidential election that may actually be won by a liberal, has edged back onto the margins of the public consciousness: the old American left. Joel Litvinoff, Audrey’s other half, is a kind of