My heart sank and I was far from rejoicing when I began this book because I thought it was a political novel which is not a genre I relish. And, indeed, this IS a political book about the Israeli/Palestinian crisis. But it has what many of its peers lack and that is humanity. And that I do rejoice in.
In a nutshell an Israeli boy wants to go live and work in London, a London boy wants to go live and work in Israel and an Israeli girl falls in love with a Muslim man. This novel is their story told against the backdrop of nations locked in an intractable conflict.
It is a story that has the courage to raise many questions. As might be expected issues of race, anti-Semitism, cultures colliding, families festering from various perspectives are explored here in an accessible way through fiction rather than cold, hard facts. But that seldom takes us far from the truths that are not buried in this novel, they are right there, on the surface, for the taking.
I’ve always found it a fascinating paradox – race versus religion. You can be born a Jew racially but practice no aspects of the Jewish religion. People can convert to Judaism but does that make them Jewish? Forgive me, I am digressing from the matter in hand. This book celebrates the traditions and rituals of Judaism whether in London or Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.
The characters are engaging. You suffer their conflicts alongside them, struggling to understand whether their decisions are the right ones, feeling for their families opposing some of these decisions. It is interesting to speculate on what it is to daily live in a war zone, maybe interesting is an inappropriate word. I only have my parents’ accounts of day to day life in WW2, where a regular, mundane life has to be lived alongside potential life changing events unfolding through conflict. And I think the sense of that is achieved very well here by this exciting, young writer. You care about the characters and their families and its almost subliminal. There are no obvious plot structures to achieve that end, you just realise that these people matter to you very much.
And as the novel progress towards its conclusion you start to wonder how the three strands of this story will link but they do, most effectively, and one of them was quite unexpected for me. I didn’t see it coming at all.
So, do I have a bad word to say about this book? No, I don’t think I do. So why four stars not five you might be asking? And I’m not sure!! I was impressed with the book but I’m a great believer in going with gut instinct and my gut instinct says four stars. I guess you could go read it and decide whether I have been stingy with my stars.? Shalom.