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Bliss: A Novel Hardcover – March 7, 2003

3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An Israeli photographer who champions Palestinian rights pursues a dangerous affair that proves disastrous for her and her son in Matalon's latest (after The One Facing Us), an edgy, elliptical novel set in France and Tel Aviv and steeped in Mideastern politics. Sarah, 35, is the photographer protagonist; her story is told from the perspective of her best friend, Ofra, who is summoned from Tel Aviv to a provincial township near Paris for the funeral of her cousin Michel after he dies of AIDS. As Ofra settles into her extended family's domestic rituals in France, she learns about the disintegration of Sarah's marriage to her passive husband, Udi, an army medic, after Sarah becomes involved with a Palestinian named Marwan. With Ofra as narrator, Matalon achieves a measured, objective tone, but she is unable to fully account for Sarah's passion for Marwan, which seems especially puzzling as Sarah is embroiled in an incident in the Gaza strip and Marwan becomes violent and erratic. Matalon's finely calibrated prose, cosmopolitan outlook and nuanced perspective on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict give the novel a sophisticated grace, but Ofra never takes on sufficient depth and authority as narrator, while Sarah's passion seems more like an act of wild irresponsibility rather than the erotic obsession Matalon hints at throughout the narrative. Matalon's keen sense of place and awareness of the emotional undercurrents of political activism give this novel a heady appeal, but the diffuseness of focus prevents it from entirely cohering.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Bliss is an elusive emotion in the latest haunting novel by Israeli writer and journalist Matalon. Even the long friendship between two Jewish Israeli women, photographer Sarah and art history scholar Ofra, is laced with stress and sorrow. Sarah, an emotionally overwrought yet fearless daughter of privilege, is steeped in guilt over the plight of the Palestinians. Ofra, poor and shy, is more articulate and grounded than Sarah, yet she is distressingly passive, living vicariously through her more selfish and flamboyant friend. Matalon creates a shifting, dreamlike mosaic in which each scene is vividly conveyed yet persistently enigmatic as she illuminates the girlhoods of her symbiotically entwined protagonists, follows Ofra to a funeral in France for a cousin who has died of AIDS, and traces the fracture of Sarah's marriage, her neglect of her son, her obsession with the murder of a young girl in Gaza, and her fanatic involvement with a reluctant Palestinian lover. "This country drives everyone crazy," says Ofra, and, indeed, there's no escaping the traumas of this tragic land. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1st edition (March 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805066020
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805066029
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,149,814 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Dolly on September 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Ronit Matalon is one of the most important young writers in Israel today. She is passionate and humane, and refuses to be sentimental or cliched. it's a shame that the only other review of this novel ignores the greatness of Matalon's humanity and doesn't bother to consider her novel's literary and political merits. 'Bliss' is not a novel that is emotionally 'easy' in any way -- it not only confronts the contradictions of political and national identity, but also the tensions of love. It does this using crystalline prose and an a-linear style that forces the reader to be actively engaged in the novel. Though her first novel, 'The One Facing Us,' is more theoretically daring, I recommend 'Bliss' to anyone who accepts that politics and love are too complex to be represented as "us" or "them," "black" or "white," "with us" or "against us."
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Format: Hardcover
Ronti Matalon has written a truly insightful and deep novel with Bliss, or Sarah, Sarah, as it is called in the Hebrew original. Matalon is deeply humanistic and loving to her characters, even as she exposes their many faults and shortcomings. Matalon, as an Israel writer, also inevitably handles the divisions and stresses of Israeli society, but she never sacrifices character or plot with any agenda. So even though the book is full of tales of Gaza, the Arabs, the security situation, the novel does not suffer. Matalon stays true to the form she has artfully arranged, building the story in a series of tantalizing back stories, remembrances, and a looping around to previously told stories, adding depth and measure to the novel as she goes. As such, Bliss becomes a novel about itself while never sacrificing the nuts and bolts of good old fashioned story telling.
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5 of 31 people found the following review helpful By czechme on September 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Care about animals? Beware of this book. One plot features the torture, persecution and killing of an old, partially blind cat.
I read several editorial reviews and none mentioned this. From them, I expected a challenging read. I was interested in the women, their emotional lives, and how they coped with their families and their social and political environments.
I generally give a book a fifty page trial. With this book, I decided at that point not to continue with it. The violence toward the cat was introduced and I knew this was not a good book for me. But, I read the last few pages. (Probably hoping I was wrong and that the outcome for the cat, anyway, was good.) Mistake!
The one star rating is the mimimum accepted by Amazon. I would rate this heartless book in the negatives for the negative impact it had on me.
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