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A Tale of Love and Darkness 1st Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 129 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0151008780
ISBN-10: 0151008787
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This memoir/family history brims over with riches: metaphors and poetry, drama and comedy, failure and success, unhappy marriages and a wealth of idiosyncratic characters. Some are lions of the Zionist movement—David Ben-Gurion (before whom a young Oz made a terrifying command appearance), novelist S.Y. Agnon, poet Saul Tchernikhovsky—others just neighbors and family friends, all painted lovingly and with humor. Though set mostly during the author's childhood in Jerusalem of the 1940s and '50s, the tale is epic in scope, following his ancestors back to Odessa and to Rovno in 19th-century Ukraine, and describing the anti-Semitism and Zionist passions that drove them with their families to Palestine in the early 1930s. In a rough, dusty, lower-middle-class suburb of Jerusalem, both of Oz's parents found mainly disappointment: his father, a scholar, failed to attain the academic distinction of his uncle, the noted historian Joseph Klausner. Oz's beautiful, tender mother, after a long depresson, committed suicide when Oz (born in 1939) was 12. By the age of 14, Oz was ready to flee his book-crammed, dreary, claustrophobic flat for the freedom and outdoor life of Kibbutz Hulda. Oz's personal trajectory is set against the background of an embattled Palestine during WWII, the jubilation after the U.N. vote to partition Palestine and create a Jewish state, the violence and deprivations of Israel's war of independence and the months-long Arab siege of Jerusalem. This is a powerful, nimbly constructed saga of a man, a family and a nation forged in the crucible of a difficult, painful history.
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From Bookmarks Magazine

An international novelist of stature, Oz makes an assured leap to autobiography and is greeted with reverence and awe. Aware of the universality of his story, he enlists excerpts from the diaries of friends and relatives to provide a broader context. He also forgoes tying his narrative to a strict timeline, opting instead for a circular approach. Settings and characters bear the vibrant imprint of his descriptive skills. For all the praise, a few devil’s advocates lurk out there—David Cesarini of The Independent calls the prose "dense … almost liturgical"—but even he concedes that it’s an impressive piece of work. It is rare for a fiction writer’s life to be more dramatic than his novels, but such is the case with Oz.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (November 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151008787
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151008780
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #336,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The child of Ashkenazi Jews who escaped to Jerusalem just before the outbreak of World War II, Amos Klausner (the author's original name) grew up in a scholarly family which encouraged his precocity. His great uncle Joseph was Chair of Jewish History at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and wrote his magnum opus about Jesus of Nazareth. His father read sixteen or seventeen languages, wrote poetry, and had an enormous library, while his mother spoke four or five languages, could read seven or eight, and told elaborate stories.

Amos grew up a solitary child, encouraged to entertain himself while his parents worked. Always a writer at heart, he believed that "it was not enough for me to be intelligent, rational, good, sensitive, creative." He often felt he was a "one-child show...a non-stop performance," always on display to the relatives, his accomplishments never seeming to be enough.

In this elaborate, non-linear autobiography, Oz and his family are seen as archetypal immigrants to Jerusalem, people who arrived when the land was still under British rule and who helped create a new homeland, arguing ferociously about the direction the country should take and the leaders who should lead it. The history of Jerusalem combines with the author's own genealogical records and his memories about his early family life to create a broad picture of the society in which he grew up and in which his writing talent took root.

Detailed, highly descriptive, and filled with introspection about his unusual life, the book shows the tensions within the society and within his family. After his mother's suicide when he was twelve, he broke with his father, joined a kibbutz, and, at fifteen changed his name.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As I wrote yesterday, but deleted because I don't use my real name, this book is everything the news and customers have posted. I will only add this WARNING. Those of you, who, like myself, read about this book as the story of his mother's suicide, have been given a slanted idea about " A Tale of Love and Darkness." Yes, his mother's suicide is here, but far more than that.

As others have said better than I: It's a history of Palestine (pre-Israel), the autobiography of a writer, the way that European Jews experienced lower class/lower middle class life Palestine in the late 30's, early 40's, and all the myriad influences and people that created the great Amos Oz, who is surprisingly modest throughout. REALLY modest.

Yes, as others have said, Oz is my favorite author. BUT, no one should imagine that this will be an easy read, because it is not. It isn't written to excite;is not plot-driven but meditative and far-ranging, as well as non-linear. It differs from Oz' other work, both novels and non-fiction, in that way. It is a long march and the reader must do some hard work to keep up with chronology and mostly to keep one's interest going.

Do not buy this because of a few sensationalist views. Buy this, and yes, I too believe it is a MASTERPIECE, truly AMAZING-- if you are interested in: writing, Israel, Kibbutz life, in exile and hope, in situational despair, in character portraits, and in Oz himself.

His mother's death IS utterly wrenching but hardly the main story and his father comes to life through Oz' genius, as well as his unhappy O how unhappy mom. Also, beware that because he meanders hither and yon, when her death happens it hurts, man o does it!
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Format: Paperback
Others have written what this book is about, so I will not try to describe the content of this book. Like the way he presented his mother, Amos Oz is a born story teller and a great painter with words. There is not a place, a person or an activity but that he presents it in such detail that you can actually SEE them. But I must say that often I found the detail excessive. He seems to have total recall, which is often rewarding but can at other times be a bit of a bore. He tells you the number of steps leading up into a house; he describes the smallest objects in a room without asking himself whether they are truly necessary to establish the room's atmosphere; he is inordinately fond of lists. Here, for instance, is a sentence describing his mother working silently and efficiently in the house: "She cooked, baked, did the washing, put the shopping away, ironed, cleaned, tidied, washed the dishes, sliced vegetables, kneaded dough." His aunts, who tell him about the family's life in Poland, also seem to have had total recall: that life is richly reconstructed, but again for my taste the pudding is often over-egged. Then he describes in minute detail and several times exactly which streets he or his mother would take from one location in Jerusalem to another. That might possibly be evocative for Jerusalemites who know the city; but if they know the city, do they need such a guide? These tiresome excesses are most in evidence when he describes his earliest years, until he is about eight years old; but those chapters take up about 2/3rds of this massive book (though his tale is never entirely chronological).Read more ›
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