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About the Night Paperback – June 1, 2016
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About the Author
Anat Talshir has been one of Israel’s most distinguished investigative journalists for over thirty years. She has hosted a television show on current affairs and taught creative writing at the College of Management Academic Studies. Talshir has written and produced several documentaries, including the award-winning program Israel’s Next War?
In 2002 she was awarded the Nahum Sokolov Prize for best journalism (the Israeli Pulitzer). Talshir is currently working on her second novel.
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I wanted more history. I read mostly historical fiction. A great HF novel makes you feel like you are living in a place in time right along with the characters. This book left me wondering about Isreali history. I actually had to Google a timeline so I knew what was happening, and left me wondering why the author didn't just tell me herself.
Then there's the format. Yikes! Characters reflecting on previous occasions. Flashbacks abound. Character in 2006 thinking about 1967, but wait now it's 1947. Its allover the place, and no wonder the historical record was hard to grasp.
Lastly, the characters themselves. Again, I wanted more. A sweeping epic that spans 60years needs more. Nomi's family is there then written off in a paragraph. Hey, I didn't need all these characters, but the author introduced them, so develop them!
I bought the romance, the longing. I just longed for more.
Also, I thought this would be a literary book referencing a romance between a Jew and a Palestinian, and the cultural adjustments or consequences of their romance. I just didn't feel it was headed in that direction. There didn't seem to be the tension between the cultures I thought there would be.
Just a typical romance.
Perhaps you'll enjoy this more. It just wasn't for me.
Now, I don’t read romance novels. I find them cloying and unrealistic and boring as all get out but this one caught my eye because of the circumstances: an Arab man and a Jewish woman fall in love in the early days of the Israeli state. Talk about star-crossed, and I was certain the love story would turn out to be nothing more than flimsy window dressing for the larger issues that Talshir wanted to address. I don’t know much about her, other than she is a journalist, so I figured an agenda would be forthcoming but no; this stayed a full blown romance. And a good one.
The love between Elias and Lila is fabled, the kind that, in all of recorded history, there may be five or six true examples: Tristan and Isolde, Victoria and Albert, the Brownings, William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft, my German grandparents…you know, two people who first set eyes on each other and, ever after, there is no one else in their thoughts or hearts. No matter what happens.
And, boy, does a bunch of stuff happen.
War, of course, right from the get go, the British Mandate through the creation of the state of Israel and beyond, decades and decades of terrible fighting between Arabs and Jews…which you’d think would be, as in all star-crossed lover stories, the point: politics and greed and religion and the narrow-minded frozen brained fanatics of this side or that keeps the innocent,wonderful lovers from Being Together, which is Tragedy, Because of Outside Forces…but no. The wars are beside the point. Nothing can unravel the lyric of this fabled love, nothing, not even a period of nineteen years when Elias and Lila don’t know if the other is alive…until it becomes unraveled. Suddenly. And against character.
Which is the reason I don’t give this five stars. When an author sets up an expectation, it must be carried through. If this is fabled, lyric love, then it must remain so. Otherwise, you’re just messing with me.