Tonia Shulman does not share her father’s dream – forging a Jewish State out of the chaos of British Mandate Palestine. She hates the hardships of life in Kfar Etzion – an isolated kibbutz south of Jerusalem – clearing rocky hillsides, bathing in rationed cups of trucked-in water, and being confined behind barbed wire. Her own dreams have nothing to do with national self-realization; she longs for steaming bubble baths and down comforters, but most of all for a place on earth where she can feel safe. She is in love with Amos, but refuses to acknowledge these feelings. She knows he will never leave his homeland and Tonia plans to emigrate to America. But can she really begin a new life there?
I was initially going to review a later work by this Author (Olivia, Mourning), but decided against that in favour of a review of their debut novel; a review of Olivia will now appear later in the year. Given the current climate between Israel and Palestine, this is a book that anyone who is not familiar with Israel and its turbulent history should read.
Through the lives and words of the two main protagonists, this Author brings to life the history of Israel/British Palestine dating from the 1930’s up to the Six Day War in 1967. With great care the Author uses their characters to describe the impact historical events had on both fictional and actual people. The female protagonist was portrayed as being unhappy with her lot in life and wanting out, going to any means to achieve her dream. While I did not agree with a lot of the decisions this character made, it did not make me like her any less as it brought into the light the hardships and uncertainty that she and those around her were feeling in this time of change. This character is nothing if not determined but, as the novel progresses she develops a better understanding of the pitfalls this determination can bring, and also the power it can instil in a person. The male protagonist is a complete opposite to the female lead; he comes from a totally different background and has a belief structure that is at total odds to hers. However, despite this and the carnage of war that is exploding around them they develop a relationship. To say more about this would spoil their part in the story, and to find out how this progresses this book has to be read.
The Author’s writing style throughout this novel is excellent, they are eloquent without being boorish and this leads to a story that flows well and pulls the reader in from the very first page. Pulling on their links with Israel the Author adds an authenticity to their book that would otherwise have been missing if it had been based on purely research. If you have never been to Israel, this book will take you there and, if you have been as I have back in the late 1970’s, reading it will bring to mind all the places seen right down to the rusted military vehicles at the side of the road. As I read this book I was made to think of works by Leon Uris several times, as this Author captures the region with just as much clarity.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good well-paced and well written book, who also enjoys a historical novel based on fact and experience that shows through on every page. Surprisingly for me, as I’m not a lover of the romance genre, I did enjoy this part of the book too and was not the reason I rated this as 4 thumbs; that was because I did not want it to end.