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Suddenly, Love: A Novel Hardcover – May 6, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


“The questions Suddenly, Love poses are not only those of Jewish displacement, Jewish memory, and Jewish identity. Woven in are also questions of language, of the proper relationship of words to life. . . . In treating the largest of possible subjects—life, death, faith, language, identity, ethical responsibility—Appelfeld is one with Emily Dickinson’s directive, ‘Tell all the truth but tell it slant.’ Suddenly, Love is a brilliantly hybrid creature: It has the real-life detail of the traditional novel, but it also make us travel into the worlds of folk tales and magic, prayers and dreams. All this is accomplished with deftness and clarity.”
—Mary Gordon, The New York Times Book Review

Suddenly, Love has all the wisdom, compassion, restraint, and exquisite clarity we have come to expect from Appelfeld. . . . It is a powerful story of redemption through faith and love . . . the product of an extraordinarily creative imagination.”
Haaretz (Tel Aviv)

“At the end of this spare, slender novel, both Ernst’s and Irena’s lives have been transformed. It isn’t far-fetched to suggest that, in some subtle way, the reader has been changed, too.”
—The Jewish Journal (Los Angeles)

“In a tradition that does not sacrifice reason but reveres it, that turns study itself into a sacred activity, does goodness still look like simplicity, or does it take other forms? These are the fascinating questions posed by Suddenly, Love.”

“The novel’s obvious virtues include Appelfeld’s characteristically spare, stripped-down prose, rendered in Jeffrey M. Green’s elegant translation, and the narrative’s seamless interweaving of past and present. . . . In this borderland between life and death, memory and imagination, [Ernst and Irena] fashion a love story that, however unlikely, will move all but the most skeptical of readers.”
—The Boston Globe
Suddenly, Love spotlights Appelfeld’s genius for depicting a quietude of soul in a world that oscillates between rasp and ruin. In its murmured telling, it becomes a deeply interior hymn to the sustaining, ballasting brew of loyalty and affection. . . . Appelfeld has always been a master of the subtle, Chekhovian misunderstandings between individuals.”
—The New Republic

“A quiet, moving, and utterly convincing story about the growing love between an aging author and his companion. . . . Appelfeld writes simply but gorgeously about important things, and the translation is particularly graceful and supple.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“A quiet, contemplative story about empathy, connection, and finding love when you least expect it. Readers of Amos Oz and A. B. Yehoshua will enjoy Appelfeld’s storytelling.”
—Library Journal
“This compact novel movingly embraces the themes of love, faith, and redemption between two disparate Jewish generations. . . . Appelfeld tells the affecting tale in clean, spare prose.”
Publishers Weekly

More praise for

Until the Dawn’s Light

“With a deftness that allows single words to suggest volumes of emotional complication, Appelfeld draws us into this young mother’s story . . . [A] remarkable novel . . . Masterly and finely wrought.”
—Julie Orringer, The New York Times Book Review
Blooms of Darkness
“Like Anne Frank’s diary—a work to which it will draw justified comparison—Blooms of Darkness records a brutal process of education [through which] Appelfeld reveals his compassion, his wisdom, and his restraint . . . Majestic and humane.”
David Leavitt, The New York Times Book Review
“The appearance of simplicity is, of course, the result of care and control, and the success with which it is achieved is one of the most notable and impressive features of this strikingly original novel, comparable in its way, though very different in tone, to some of the early work of Ernest Hemingway.”
—Barry Unsworth, The New York Times Book Review
All Whom I Have Loved
“Poetic in his instincts, Appelfeld has an artfully spare writing style, pregnant in its imagery, intentionally coy in its resonance.”
Liesl Schillinger, The New York Times Book Review
The Iron Tracks
“Appelfeld is a writer of genuine distinction who has transformed his own experience into literature of exceptional clarity and power.”
Jonathan Rosen, The New York Times Book Review
“Appelfeld reimagines the place of his own origins through a perspective that in its generosity of feeling recalls Tolstoy and Chekhov.”
Judith Grossman, The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

AHARON APPELFELD is the author of more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction, including Badenheim 1939, The Iron Tracks (winner of the National Jewish Book Award), The Story of a Life (winner of the Prix Médicis Étranger), and Until the Dawn’s Light (winner of the National Jewish Book Award). Other honors he has received include the Giovanni Boccaccio Literary Prize, the Nelly Sachs Prize, the Israel Prize, the Bialik Prize, and the MLA Commonwealth Award. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has received honorary degrees from the Jewish Theological Seminary, Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, and Yeshiva University. Born in Czernowitz, Bukovina (now part of Ukraine), in 1932, he lives in Israel.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken; Tra edition (May 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805242953
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805242959
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #121,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

This book was simply written, and a timeless love story.
Her devotion grows into a love for the old man that is like nothing she has ever experienced in her life before.
Thomas F. Dillingham
This book left me happy and feeling blessed to have read it.
K. Cade

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 27, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The concept is simple, even beautiful. An ailing man, aged seventy, engages a housekeeper half his age to look after him while he maintains his daily ritual of going to the cafe in the morning, walking in the afternoon, and writing pages and pages that he later disavows. It is Jerusalem in the 1980s. Irena, the housekeeper, has been housebound since the death of her parents, maintaining their apartment exactly as they left it, and communing from time to time with their ghosts; this new job at least gets her out of the house. In a way, she loves Ernst, her employer. But he is difficult. "In my youth love was uprooted from within me!" he exclaims. Irena answers, but only in her mind: "I'll give you all the love that I've gathered up."

The title is misleading; there is nothing sudden about this -- except that thaw is always surprising when it comes after so many icebound years. And the reawakening of the power to love is more important than the love itself, although that is real also. The two people could not be more different. She is a high-school drop-out, born in a camp for displaced persons after the war, and moderately religious. He was a star pupil at his school in Czernowitz in Galicia, but was seduced by the Communist party into persecuting his own people. When war came, he joined the Red Army and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, further embittered by the loss of his young wife and daughter to the Nazis. He has come to Israel largely by accident; his Judaism is almost entirely secular. Yet he is challenged by her quiet faith, and begins rereading Genesis to get in touch with the simple lives of the old patriarchs.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By moose_of_many_waters VINE VOICE on June 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Suddenly, Love is a slow moving love story involving two Israelis: a 70 plus year old failed writer from Ukraine and his mid-thirties caretaker born in a German Displaced Persons camp. Both are eccentric and have spent years avoiding loneliness by creating worlds full of people - long dead and imagined - in their heads. Proximity and profound differences in their intellect and approach to day to day living gradually create an unlikely attraction. There is nothing sudden in Suddenly, Love, but the novel is short and an easy read. The quality of the translation is not the best. I can't imagine this book attracting a large audience, but if you're a fan of Israeli novels and of Appelfeld in particular, you might find something enjoyable here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sunday VINE VOICE on June 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ernst is an old man who needed a housekeeper and a nursemaid. Irena is a simple-minded woman in her 30s, with few thoughts of her own that did not come from her parents. Ernst needs Irena to take care of him, and Irena needs someone to take care of, which ends up being Ernst. That's the least complicated way to view this book.

It's not that simple, however. Ernst wasn't looking for a nursemaid at first; he just ended up needing one. And Irena spent most of her time before Ernst staying in her home communicating with her dead parents. Their togetherness helps Ernst to continue living in his home and writing all the things he needs to write, so he can regain the part of his soul he lost when he became a Communist as a teenager. Their togetherness helps Irena to start having some original thoughts of her own, and to recognize she has special qualities and abilities.

Throughout this all, there is constant contact and talking with deceased relatives. Not using Ouija boards or mediums, but simply believing they are there, and talking to them in one's mind. Irena especially believes she can communicate with her parents when they "appear" in her home, which was their home; and believes Ernst's parents will show up in his home, so he can make amends for the terrible way he treated them in his younger days. Mixed in with all of this are stories of persecution of Jews, and stories of concentration camps and other war atrocities. Nothing is too graphic, however. This is in many ways a very gentle book, with gentle hopes and dreams, including gentle beliefs of a future together for Ernst and Irena, that is in many ways an altered past.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Aharon Appelfeld, born in 1932 and still alive, is one of Israel’s foremost living authors and this book shows his skills. He won many awards for his writing including the prestigious Israel Prize. He was born in Ukraine, which is the backbone of this book, and traveled to Israel when he was eight years old. He writes in Hebrew and the translation of this volume is excellent. The book is very readable. Generally his books revolve around the Holocaust, but they do not depict the horrors of the concentration camps; what he writes is relevant because he tells the impacts upon people that horrible situations can produce. This novel depicts a character that went through the holocaust, but that experience plays a very small part in the novel.

His books are not realistic depictions of actual events although they may appear to be so. His books can and should be interpreted metaphorically. Although his writing is properly classified as good literature, his writing is not complex; his style is clear, precise, easily understandable, modernistic, and interesting.

I will describe some parts of the framework of this novel but not the drama. The scenes take place in Israel, but the protagonist, 71 year old Ernst, recalls events of his youth in Ruthenia in western Ukraine in the 921 mile long Carpathian Mountain range, the second largest mountain range in Central and Eastern Europe. Irena, a simple single woman who is half his age, comes to Ernst’s home daily to take care of his house, to clean and cook, from morning to night. Ernst is tormented and depressed when Irena appears. He was a writer in his youth in Ruthenia and was praised for it, but now feels his writing is wrong. His writings recall how badly his parents treated him. He hides his writings and doesn’t want them published.
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