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The Extra Hardcover – June 7, 2016
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“Engaging…Yehoshua is a master in his visual sketches of scenes.”—New York Times Book Review
"In this thoughtful novel, a contentedly single Israeli harpist living in the Netherlands returns home because of a bureaucratic issue to do with her mother’s apartment in Jerusalem. She enjoys her forced sabbatical, wandering the city, sparring with Orthodox neighbors, and freelancing as a movie extra...Yehoshua seems to be hinting that, 'in a country that never ceases to be a threat to itself,' peaceful deadlock is a small but genuine victory."—The New Yorker
"[A] finely etched new novel...Smoothly translated into a lyrical English by Stuart Schoffman, Yehoshua’s style of calm control enfolds the reader in the strains and pulls between Israel and the Diaspora (what he elsewhere calls 'the great debate between Israel and the Golah'), between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, between private decision and the social imperatives of 'be fruitful and multiply' (a subject Israeli sociologist Orna Donath raises in nonfiction form in her compelling recent book 'Regretting Motherhood'). Out of such tarnished discontinuities Yehoshua has fashioned his art, and from them he has now minted a marvel of a book."—Haaretz
"The ease with which Yehoshua captures the inner life of his quirky heroine in all its lush undertones and self-enforced solitude is special . . . Rich in reflection and personal truth. Yehoshua's masterful portrayal of a female musician at a pivotal moment in her life is deep, unpredictable, and, in the end, surprisingly suspenseful."—Kirkus, starred review
"Award-winning Israeli novelist Yehoshua gives moral force, even grandeur, to the inevitable push-pull of one family’s life."—Library Journal, starred review
"This story of family relationships and personal choices offers an insightful look at redemption and acceptance."—Booklist
"In The Extra, award-winning Israeli novelist A. B. Yehoshua movingly portrays a woman’s struggle for independence amid familial expectations and obligations...Readers who enjoy delving into the intersections of art and literature, or who are interested in the difficulties of controlling one’s trajectory while simultaneously remaining responsive to friends and family, will appreciate the ideas put forth in Yehoshua’s latest piece."—Jewish Book Council
From the Inside Flap
From Israel s highly acclaimed author, a novel about a musician who returns home and finds the rhythm of her life interrupted and forever changed
Noga, forty-two and a divorcee, is a harpist with an orchestra in theNetherlands. Upon the sudden death of her father, she is summoned home to Jerusalemby her brother to help make decisions in urgent family and personalmatters including hanging on to a rent-controlled apartment even as they place their reluctant mother in an assisted-living facility. Returning to Israel also means facing the formerhusband who left her when she refused him children, but whose passion for her remains even though he is remarried and the father of two.
For her imposed three-month residence in Jerusalem, the brother findsher work playing roles as an extra in movies, television, opera.These new identities undermine the firm boundaries of behaviorheretofore protected by the music she plays, and Noga, always an extrain someone else s story, takes charge of the plot.The Extra is Yehoshua at his liveliest storytelling best a bravura performance.
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There is a dreamlike quality to this book, accentuated by the stilted prose, which I believe even in translation must reflect the tone of the Hebrew original. This is clearly the author's intent -- but it has the effect of distancing the reader from the characters and the action.
We learn that Noga's marriage broke up because of her refusal to have children -- which is the central mystery of the book. Her ex-husband, now remarried with two children, is still evidently in love with her. Noga also has to interact with two children of a Hasidic neighbor who keep sneaking into her apartment to watch TV.
This is a book which resists easy interpretation -- and indeed having finished it I still find myself trying to decode its meaning. Noga seems to want to drift through life as an extra. A commitment to life would mean embracing motherhood and she refuses, indeeds fights against it. Does this have something to do with life in Israel -- or the life of Israel? It's not clear. Noga suggests she resisted having a child because she did not want to be forced into the traditional role of a woman -- and demanded full equality which is not given to women under the laws of orthodox Judaism.
The characters in this book, and indeed in other by this author, are always indulging in deep sleeps or battling insomnia. Noga moves from bed to bed in her mother's empty apartment seeking rest and occasionally falls into deep afternoon naps. She sleeps one night in an abandoned corner of a film set and awakes to find her ex-husband sleeping in the next bed. She sleepwalks through life, flying with her Dutch orchestra toward the end of the book, for a concert tour to Japan and passing over the North Pole, a barren place where the sun refuses to set.
I think there's a lot in this book for those with the patience to unravel it. But it may be that actually there's less here than meets the eye. I found it difficult to read and had to take frequent breaks. Like the characters, I often found myself lulled into an unsettling sleep with obscure dreams and disconnected thoughts. And now having finished it, it seems like the memory of a dream slipping away. What was it about? I'm not sure or I can't quite remember.....