Tag Archives: Israel life

Book Diva Review: If You Awaken Love

If You Awaken Love, by Emuna Elon, is a wonderfully written novel, dealing with rejection and acceptance, love and loss, and other underlying, issues, within the pages.

The story line takes place during turbulent times, a thirty years span from the Six-Day War up until the day Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated. Although politics is not the primary theme in If You Awaken Love, it is there, underlying within the pages. We are given glimpses of life through those who lived in Israel before its statehood, glimpses of the Left and Right Wings, the Orthodox and the secular, the elderly and the young, the liberal and the staunch, and so on. The reader sees both sides of the issue within the vivid images that Elon depicts, from those Jews who are in favor of a dual land, and those who are more restrictive in their thinking.

The narrator is a woman named Shlomtzion Dror, who by all accounts seems to be supportive of the Israeli Left Wing. She lives in Tel Aviv and is a forty year old divorced woman. Shlomtzion is a woman who has been rejected by her childhood sweetheart, Yair Berman. Her unrequited love has transcended the decades. She has a daughter named Maya, who happens to be in love with Yair’s son, and they plan to marry. This comes as a shock to Shlomtzion. Shlomtzion is left wandering through the years of her past, journeying back in time to what once was, as she slowly makes her emotional, physical and political journey forward.

Shlomtzion is consumed by the past, unable to let the fires of history burn, allowing them to continually refuel. Which is much like the political and religious situation in Israel, with the embers continually flaring up into a constant and eternal flame. Elon writes with precision, is cognizant of the issues at hand, and her descriptions are beautiful works of prose.

Suffice it to say that the story is filled with a roller coaster of emotions, emotions that fluctuate from moment to moment, memory to memory. Within the emotional elevator ride, the reader is given impressions of daily life in Israel, impressions of religious life and the political balance of a nation, over a thirty year period. Is there forgiveness and/or redemption at the end? You will need to read it yourself in order to find out. But, when you do, don’t skip over sentences and word images, as each one is specific to the whole of the novel.

On the surface, If You Awaken Love might seem to be a drab or unsaturated story. But, its’ beauty is within the illuminations that Elon so aptly and masterfully brings the reader. Her words are dynamic, strong, yet filled with a sensitivity to both sides of the issue. Elon uses biblical passages to enhance the story line, which make the novel all the more profound. She doesn’t have answers, and doesn’t have a final judgment, and leaves it up to the reader as to whether a judgment is even necessary, or if sides need to be taken. I found If You Awaken Love to be a brilliantly written novel. I applaud Emuna Elon for her endeavors in documenting history, combined with a story of love and war, in her first novel.

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Filed under Book Diva's Book Reviews, Family Dynamics, Fiction, Historical Novels, Jewish History

Review: The Liberated Bride

The Liberated Bride by A.B. Yeshoshua is a study on the meaning of borders, boundaries, and crossings. It is also a story about relationships and interactions, from familial to friendship, student, professor to writer.

Although it has comic moments and visuals of comic relief, it is not a comedy, but is a serious and insightful novel. Yet, it can be defined as somewhat of a farce (I know, I know, that sounds like a bit of an oxymoron), as the pace of the book is somewhat frantic and filled with anxious and tense moments, much like the actions of Yochanan Rivlin, the main character. Yehoshua deftly conveys a roller coaster of emotions in The Liberated Bride.

The novel winds from first person to second person, more than once, but always from Rivlin’s perspective. He has recently retired as a Near-Eastern Studies Department Chair. He is obsessed with the fact that he has no answers as to why his son (who lives in Paris) is divorced from his bride of one-year, and he intrudes in every aspect in order to find out the answer. He steps outside of acceptable privacy boundaries with his manipulative behavior, past the point of no return, and past the possibility of stepping back to assess and admit the truth of his actions to himself.

The book opens at a Palestinian wedding, where Samaher (the bride) has invited Jewish professors to attend. In fact, the wedding is being put on strictly for them, as she already has been legally married within her Arab environment. Samaher is a student, working on her degree, and she eventually suffers from depression (a form of dropping out on reality, which in some weird sense can be viewed as liberating). He hates attending weddings, as they remind him of his son Ofer”s marriage and divorce five years earlier.

Rivlin wants to leave the wedding early, but his wife (a bride of sorts), Hagit, encourages him to stay. They have had a long and successful marriage, but his wife is constantly trying to discourage him from trying to find out why his son divorced, and is quite assertive through her attitude and verbalizing to Rivlin regarding his absurd escapades and fiascos (some of them she doesn’t find out until after the fact). That facet of his personality irritates her.

Hagit is a well-respected and successful district judge, independent woman. Her job requires her to make difficult decisions and rulings when people cross the boundaries of the law, much like a Biblical Deborah. She also understands the need for privacy, as she handles top-secret cases. She believes in structure in life, whereas Rivlin seems to dismiss them. He is in a constant state of obsession, always searching for the unknown answers, as the historian in him emerges at every turn, to the dismay of others.

Rivlin’s own family members travel worldwide, from city to country to continent, back and forth, crossing borders, internationally and culturally. They almost always attend a wedding in their travels. Rivlin himself travels the highways and roads of Israel, crossing borders, both physically and emotionally, as he manipulates everyone in his life, in his unyielding search for answers.

The book details much of daily life in the Middle East, and our senses are filled with activity, smells, tastes, sights and sounds, and also the conflicts within different cultures residing in the same country (the book was written before the current problems and situation). Each culture is dependent on each other, intradependent, and interdependent on each other within the cultural independence. Each person is dependent on their own culture, and also other cultures for survival. Each person is seeking truth. Yehoshua brings strong human elements to the characters. Parents from one culture do not necessarily fit the mold of the other culture.

Being a parent doesn’t give you exclusivity into the lives of your child, and your need-to-know diminishes when they become adults. Yehoshua is brilliant in his insight regarding familial bonds and the ties that bind family members, and also brilliant in his assessment of familial boundaries and privacy, and what constitutes invasion of that privacy.

The Liberated Bride left this reader to question the definition of “bride”. Also, it had me thinking issues of liberation, and what it means socially, politically and personally. There are other brides, other aspects of liberation within the almost 600-page book that I won’t delve into. You need to read the book for yourself to find out its connections and complexities.

Yehoshua leaves us to wonder who or what exactly “The Liberated Bride” is, as the word “bride” takes on many connotations, including “bridge”. Is the bride a human being/s, state of being or mindset, a country, or is it a combination of all those factors. That is the brilliance of Yehoshua, his ability to convey and bring substance to the characters and the country in The Liberated Bride.

A.B. Yehoshua was born in Jerusalem, and his own understanding of Israel is intense and runs deep. That is clearly evident in his excellent and masterful writing, with his gift for weaving diverse fabrics and threads into a tapestry of life.

Read this book yourself and make your own judgements as to who or what the bride is or represents.

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