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Henna House: A Novel Hardcover – August 12, 2014

4.5 out of 5 stars 347 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Adela is a young Jewish girl in early twentieth-century Yemen. In a house full of garrulous brothers, an ailing father, and a bitter mother, Adela seeks solace in a hidden cave where she can dream and, most of all, protect herself from the attentions of the Confiscator, a Muslim official who seizes Jewish children whose fathers have died. Racing against time and her father’s illness, Adela’s family makes an engagement with a distant cousin, Asaf, whom Adela invites into her cave and her heart. When Asaf and his father leave town, Adela is comforted by the arrival of her aunt, a henna artist, and her female cousins. As Adela grows, we follow her family and its community through their journey to the prosperous port of Aden; marriages and deaths; the establishment of Israel; and, finally, their departure for Israel in the famous airlift Operation On Wings of Eagles. Although somewhat generic in its depiction of female companionship and the hidden sensualities of traditional cultures, the novel is a welcome glimpse into this historical moment and little-known culture. --Lynn Weber

Review

A captivatingand evocative novel, at once intensely intimate and sweeping in scope. NomiEve is a wonderful writer—compassionate, intelligent, assured—and her deeply felt, richly imagined bookwill stay with me for a long time. (Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans)

“This was a book I had to read twice:the first time to rush through quickly to find out what will ultimately happento the characters, and the second time to slowly savor the descriptions ofthese marvelous, exotic people and locales. Nomi Eve captivated me.” (Maggie Anton, author of Rashi’s Daughters and Rav Hisda’s Daughter)

Nomi Eve's novel is a heady mixof henna, history, and the power of words written on skin, sand, andpaper. An engrossing, surprising, compelling read. (Indira Ganesan, author of As Sweet as Honey)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (August 12, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476740275
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476740270
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (347 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #444,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
I'm really torn about this one. On the one hand, I loved reading about a culture--the Yemeni Jews--about which I knew precisely nothing. I think it is too easy for non-Jewish readers to think that there is only one or two types of Judaism, so I really enjoyed learning about this particular culture. And I think this is the first book I'd ever read that was set in Yemen, so there is that.

I also really loved Eve's writing voice. She's lyrical without getting too wrapped up in her own language. She also strikes a nice balance between explaining culture-specific terms and leaving some for the reader to define for themselves through context. I find that many authors writing about another culture either go one way or the other, so I appreciated that Eve was very moderate in this.

But, there were some technical things about this book that really bothered me. For one thing, I felt like 80% of this book was just backstory for the last 20%. Then, once I hit the point where the story really began, the pace of the book picked up so much it felt like a race to the finish. I do wish that Eve had evened out the tempo of this book so that the reader doesn't feel like the story starts to fly by them right as it starts getting good.

Eve also seemed to have trouble with foreshadowing and extraneous details. There were a number of details that felt like they should be developed into the plot but just never went anywhere. Conversely, the bonafide foreshadowing was very obvious and almost felt like there should be a "dut dut DUN" every time it occured.

There was one other thing that made me very, very uncomfortable about this book. I actually tried to ignore it when evaluating my thoughts of this book, but it ended up coloring how I saw much of the book.
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Format: Kindle Edition
This book hooked me immediately with beautiful prose and hints of tragedy to come. In some books, I find that knowing something bad is going to happen is more suspense than I can deal with. In this case, however, it added just enough tension to pull me forward, perhaps because Adela was dealing with enough un-foreshadowed challenges to keep me focused on the present. At the beginning, I loved the comparison of stories and henna designs. The writing throughout the book lived up to the beautiful opening, often poetic and inspiring. The setting was also a strength of this story. The plot was intimately connected to specifics of the time and place in history. The author brought in hints of larger events in the world, enhancing the story and my ability to learn from it through context.

The henna that the story focuses on was fascinating and I enjoyed learning about the culture women who were otherwise mostly powerless had claimed as their own. One of my least favorite parts of the book was that the main character really didn’t have any control over her fate. Although that was in large part due to the setting I liked so much, I still wished she’d made more decisions within the restrictions she faced. There was great character growth though, as Adela dealt with many adverse events outside her control and the ending was very moving. Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot and would recommend it to any fan of historical fiction.
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Format: Hardcover
Nomi Eve isn't playing when she composes fiction. Henna House is not a tale delivered by the author with a light hand to her readers. In another sense, this decidedly isn't literary play; I would not describe the form as experimental, exploratory, or organically tailored to the content in a responsive or flexible way.

Instead, the narrative here is as purposeful in tone and effect as any I can presently recall. Eve's narrator's voice has been well-honed, and more strikingly, the discourse in this text is never less than unabashedly powerful. Throughout the detailed work, the reader senses the heart of the matter being directly set forth; nothing is roundabout or oblique -- let alone trivial. In sum, this novel delivers exceptional drama without ever struggling with the bounds of good taste or the threat of melodrama.

The novel is as rich as it is heavy. The plot blends tragedy with the warmth of carefully drawn family relationships and other deep human bonds. There is joy and sorrow. There is history and culture (of Yemeni Jews in the 1920's, 30's and 40's) to fill a nonfictional account of the same, included seamlessly in the story and naturally presented fully to a mostly ignorant reader.

This narrator, the heroine, and her familiar coming of age story (in content yet strange in particular detail) will stick with this reader for a long time. If your reading of this book is anything like mine, you will be substantially enriched and deeply satisfied by this book. It's something really special, in my estimation.

This review is long overdue given the tremendous gift of this novel in and of itself, let alone in light of Nomi Eve's generous supply of my very own copy of the work (which implicitly raises a duty to review honestly when the book is months away from release). I am grateful to the author for this opportunity and the experience her art provided me. I encourage readers with any interest to read this book ASAP. Seriously.
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Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book. It shows us the diversity of the people in Yemen and how they coexist. Interesting that Muslim and Jewish brides both had Henna tattoos done. I thought that this was an Indian practice. There was a lot of clashing of cultures and beliefs in this book. This is the story of Adela a Yemenite Jew and her cousin Hani who are forever tided together through the art of Henna. A tale of love, betrayal and family ties this book keeps you reading till the end. I thought that the end was the best part of the book. The family is affected by WWII and the Jews are sent to Israel. I am ashamed to say that even with all the reading I have done concerning WWII I had never heard of Operation Magic Carpet. I give this book a 4 out of 5 stars.
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