"Morality Play," by Barry Unsworth. Doubleday. 206 pages...

Book Briefs

January 07, 1996

"Morality Play," by Barry Unsworth. Doubleday. 206 pages. $22.50

The outward shell of this novel is simplicity itself. The action takes place among a traveling group of players in 14th-century England, when death by starvation or plague were commonplace. Because the narrator's own sins have separated him from his parish, he takes up with a troupe, traveling with them through the snows of Yorkshire to perform morality plays in whatever hamlet they find themselves.

Betty Webb, Cox News

"Streets: A Memoir of the Lower East Side," by Bella Spewack. Feminist Press. 216 pages. $19.95

This previously unpublished memoir of childhood in New York City's slums was written in 1922, after its author graduated from high school but before her success in Hollywood and on Broadway (among others, for "Kiss Me, Kate" and "My Three Angels"). Terse, unpretentious, mature in outlook, the book features good dialogue and physical detail. It also gives us an idea of how the immigrant experience has changed - no welfare then, fewer guns, more effective public schools - and how it has remained the same.

Michael Harris, L.A. Times

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