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Open Heart Hardcover – April 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 498 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (April 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385267932
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385267939
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,590,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Unlike Yehoshua's previous books, the motives of his central character in his fifth novel, Open Heart, appear unrelated to the larger social changes in Israeli society. During an assignment to India, Dr. Benjamin Rubin falls in love with the country's spiritual mystery and the nurturing sexuality of his patient's mother. In looking to the East for enlightenment, he neglects his religious heritage, even as others are reclaiming traditional Jewish culture. As he immerses himself in newfound religion, one is forced to wonder if Rubin is genuinely acknowledging the self's larger place in the cosmos or is simply on an opportunistic venture to mask his own impoverished spirit.

From Publishers Weekly

The irrational, untamable power of love becomes almost palpable in Israeli novelist Yehoshua's intense novel of forbidden passion, obsession and spiritual yearning. Its introspective, ironic narrator, Benjamin Rubin (Benjy), an internist in surgery at a Tel Aviv hospital, is asked by the hospital director, Dr. Lazar, to accompany him to a remote town in India where Lazar's college-dropout daughter, Einat, is suffering from acute hepatitis and urgently needs medical care. Benjy, 29, falls madly in love?not with Einat, whose life he saves, but with Dori, Lazar's matronly, spoiled, ordinary, 50-ish wife, whom he beds once. When she rejects his passion as impossible and silly, Benjy hastily marries hippie-like, kibbutz-raised Michaela, who espouses Hindu religious concepts and works with the "sidewalk doctors" of Calcutta. They have a daughter, Shivi, but, despite their sexual rapport and mutual affection, theirs is not a marriage of love. When Lazar requires open-heart surgery, Benjy, who takes part in the operation, must ask himself whether he truly wants to save the man or whether he wishes Lazar dead so that he can pursue his impossible love for Dori. At times, Benjy's minute self-analysis is wearying, and it's tempting to dismiss his problems as a passing Oedipal fixation. Mostly, however, Yehoshua (Mr. Mani) mingles fascinating medical detail with the story of one man seeking to open his own heart to life's possibilities, including pain. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By marina on January 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
With this novel, Yehoshua again returns to exploring the themes of Love and Identity, this time in a more intimate setting. The impossible, almost grotesque love of a young doctor (Benjy) to the middle-aged mother of his patient is described in detailed realism, yet the story is imbued with a sense of mysticism and mystery. Identities and feelings are exchanged and mixed through blood transfusions, and Love invades one's being as if from an external source. Yehoshua captures the profound mystery permeating "regular" people and situations. The many faces of Love, as well as its imitations, limitations and glaring absences are examined without flinching. Benjy is torn between desolate loneliness and identity-devouring symbiosis; the alternative path of co-existence with autonomy (offered by the independent Michaela) seems to him somehow incompatible with Love.
The Hebrew title of this novel is "The Return from India"; passages infused with Eastern spirituality and the transmigration of souls contrast with minute, surgically-precise medical descriptions and all-too-earthly human ambitions and professional rivalries. The narrative unfolds slowly, luxuriously, allowing the reader to become completely immersed in Yehoshua's world. A wonderful, richly rewarding book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By April Wilson on April 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read Open Heart after having taken a course with AB Yehoshua and after having read Mr. Mani, A Late Divorce, and The Lover, and found it the least satisfactory of these four novels. (I would give the other 3 five stars.) I found the narrator annoying and his relationship with the fifty year old woman unconvincing. I think Yehoshua is brilliant at depicting all kinds of people except middle aged women, and I don't think he really understood how a woman would react under such circumstances. However, I loved the descriptions of India, and thought the prose style in general made the book worth reading.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
I sank into Open Heart with delight, having just finished Journey to the End of the Millenium, a wonderful book. Yehoshua's humor and sophistication won me over in both books. He knows people. And the translations were excellent. Still, the final pages of Open Heart were a big disappointment: it was as though he'd had to rush off and couldn't be bothered to finish what he'd started.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 12, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Any book that holds my attention for 500 pages must have something going for it. I am an impatient reader and critical, but I enjoyed reading about Benjy, even if he was whiny and ungrateful. The scenes in India and London are well done, and his wife is an interesting character. The author's italicized chapter beginnings are too mystical for me. I quit reading them after two or three. If one of them had prefaced the first chapter, I never would have taken this book out of the library.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Frances Haas on December 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
The central pivot upon which the plot depends is disgusting, unbelievable, but, oddly, did NOT keep me from finishing the book, which was a page-turner. I read ALL 500 pages with interest; there was something engaging on each page. However, the book is marred by its plot device of having a 29 year old medical resident fall in lust with his hospital administator's wife. The wife is always presented as helpless, dependent, stubborn, plumpish and with her belly hanging out, so that the constant refrain of Dr. Rubin's love for this woman made him and all else seem contrived and ridiculous. The odd thing is that Yehoshua is aware of, and harps on, the inexplicable nature of Rubin's love, so that I realized the book is supposed to be symbolic: the "impossible" love standing for spiritual reality, which also seems "impossible;" but, in order for that unspoken comparison to work, there has to be credibility in the plot. The plot is only credible in those portions where Yehoshua did a lot of research to make the medical angle resonate; but the plump, self-absorbed love-object, Dori, remains completely unappealing throughout, yet Dr. Rubin thinks of little else. The lust the young doctor developes and pursues with this woman makes him dishonest, dishonorable, compulsive, and immoral. The author tries to insert the idea that Lazar's soul has taken over young Rubin, but this is toward the end and is unconvincing and contrived. I don't know why I finished the book. I did not mind the ending at all. The helpless, narcissistic "Dori" finally -on almost the last page- says she wants to be alone. Her horror of being alone was also the main attraction for her husband, who - she finally says- smoothered her with his love. I found the woman repugnant, which is also Dr. Rubin's first impression.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Eric Maroney on September 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
Overall, both on the level of style, delivery, character development, pacing and plot, Open Heart is disappointing. Yehoshua is a master of the complex style of fiction; of breaking up a narrative, of exploring the perimeters of what makes a novel tick. Here there is none of that. There are peculiar, italicized beginnings to each chapter, which appear to do little in the way of clarifying what happens within, and as an experiment, leaves the reader scratching his or her head. The novel is overwritten; some very beautiful bits of writing about India are sandwiched between much material that is overwrought and unnecessary.

One quality redeems: The novel is a convincing narrative of a young surgeon. Yehoshua did his homework, mastering the terminology and mind set of the working doctor. But even that can not save this novel from mediocrity. Open Heart is not this author's best work; and certainly, should be placed low on any reading list of his work.
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