Translated by Sondra Silverston.
‘What they were about to see was not something you hurry towards’.
This book is another beaut of a find from a charity shop book collecting mission, which has become a regular part of weekends for me and an obsession that I’m sure will one day kill me. I also do buy new, but there is a certain satisfaction that comes from finding a gem second hand. Last weekend, I found a John Irving that I had never heard of, in the same style of book covers that I have been collecting, lurking in the second hand book shop in the arcade in Cardiff. Reader, it is a compulsion.
I have never really read anything about Israel before, in particular how the second World War effected events, so this was refreshing and informative. The experience of reading this has really confirmed to me how much I enjoy reading fictionalised history.
I’ve been a fan of magical realism since falling in love with Louis de Bernieres and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but this time it was really interesting to read magical realism where the evocative background is Israel, rather than the South America or Europe. There is historical realism there, certainly, but it isn’t held to ransom by it. It provides some context rather than driving the narrative. And it did make me more aware of how Israel was formed and the effect that the second World War had on it and its people.
It is truly, bloody lovely. Even with my fairly rubbish imagination, I could see the homes in the kibbutz and had really vivid images in my mind of the characters.
Although the main bulk of the story is about the eponymous Markovich, and that story is beguiling, it is the journey of Zeev Feinberg that really drew me in, and has stuck with me since. How the other characters respond to Zeev and his impulses are fascinating. The various other characters are just fantastic, in particular, the Deputy Commander of the Irgun. Little moments like how many children get named after him, are just wonderful.
The last third of the book, where the narrative focused on the children, felt a little less well-developed, event though I enjoyed the more exciting parts of that narrative. The build-up was perhaps just a little too long. But the ending was beautiful wrought. I quite often HATE endings if I have loved the book, I never find them satisfying, but this ending felt right and did justice to the rest of the book.
Reviewers on Goodreads have RAVED about her next two novels, some saying that this one is weaker in comparison so I will definitely be keeping an eye out for them.