Tuesday, 13 September 2016

About The Night by Anat Talshir

About The Night by Anat Talshir
First published in Hebrew as Im Eshkahekh by Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir in Israel in 2010. English translation by Evan Fallenberg published by AmazonCrossing in 2016.

One of my WorldReads from Israel

Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Received a copy from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'On a hot summer day in 1947, on a grandstand overlooking Jerusalem, Elias and Lila fall deeply, irrevocably in love. Tragically, they come from two different worlds. Elias is a Christian Arab living on the eastern side of the newly divided city, and Lila is a Jew living on the western side. A growing conflict between their cultures casts a heavy shadow over the region and their burgeoning relationship. Between them lie not only a wall of stone and barbed wire but also the bitter enmity of two nations at war. Told in the voice of Elias as he looks back upon the long years of his life, About the Night is a timely story of how hope can nourish us, loss can devastate us, and love can carry us beyond the boundaries that hold human beings apart.'

I was surprised in reading About The Night by similarities to another recent read of mine, The Memory Of Love by Aminatta Forna. Both are intense love stories whose male protagonist is named Elias - Elias Riani here, Elias Cole in The Memory Of Love - who tells of his love from a hospital bed looking back across the years. Both are set in countries at war - Israel and Sierra Leone. Both have a dual timeline of then and now, and I thought both were absolutely beautiful to read.

About The Night is seared through with a heartbreaking melancholy which, at one point, is identified with the Turkish huzun from Istanbul. It is a novel of tremendous passion and deep emotion with our doomed lovers, Elias and Lila, stranded within a quarter mile of each other, but possibly eternally separated by the whims of unknown men who arbitrarily divide their city, Jerusalem, in 1947. (Yes, that would be us British with the guns, again.) I loved the literary writing and detailed evocation of Jewish and Arabic life especially descriptions of seemingly mundane acts such as tea making rituals which take on greater meaning as the story progresses. Talshir writes wonderfully human characters who are completely believable in their extreme circumstances. Weak Elias and strong Lila, isolated Nomi and bitter Margo, and the ever stroppy Monsieur Hubron. I did occasionally find myself confused as to which time period I was in, but generally the jumps were were fluid and the violence throughout Israel's short existence provides a shocking counterpoint to the gentle pace and prose of the book.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Anat Talshir / Contemporary fiction / Books from Israel

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