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.
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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 SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved