Review: The Lonely Tree ~ Yael Politis

The lonely treeTonia 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?

4 Thumbs-UpI 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.

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Review: A Vision of Angels ~ Timothy Jay Smith

Vision

A terrorist attack planned for Easter Sunday in Jerusalem sets off a chain of events that weave together the lives of an American journalist, Israeli war hero, Palestinian farmer, and Christian grocer.

Alerted to a suicide bomb plot, Major Jakov Levy orders the closure of the border with the Gaza Strip. Unable to get his produce to market, Amin Mousa dumps truckloads of tomatoes in a refugee camp. Paul Kessler, an American journalist, sees it on television and goes to Gaza for Amin’s personal story.

Hamas militants plot to smuggle the bomb out in Paul’s car and retrieve it when he returns home, but he’s unexpectedly detoured on the way. Meanwhile, a Hamas member confesses to the plot, and the race is on to find Paul and retrieve the bomb before the terrorists can.

A Vision of Angels is a human drama set against the background of the Middle East conflict. Ultimately it’s a story of reconciliation and hope, but not before events as tragic as a modern passion play change the lives of four families forever.

4 Thumbs-Up

This is a book that could so easily have become derailed and ‘preachy’, as the subject covered within its pages is one we see and hear about daily on our national news; the conflict between Israel and Palestine.  So I was wonderfully relieved to see that the Author dealt with this volatile area with an unbiased and caring pen.  Too many Authors take sides in their writing when covering this topic and, I’m happy to say that Timothy J. Smith is definitely not one of them; he conveys through his writing a feeling of truth, familiarity and understanding.

There is not one main lead character but many, as the novel is written from a variety of different points of view that are all equally represented; there is no hint at all as to whether the Author leans one way or the other in his beliefs.  Through the eyes of his characters, the people who live in Israel and are subject to this everyday (to give spoilers would really be wrong in this review), we are able to understand the history of the area, what has happened and why it is still happening now.  To me this was the absolute strong point of the novel; it meant I could really empathize with the characters, and see through their eyes how futile and complicated the situation there really is.  For some readers though, they may feel it hard to empathize with the characters as this, after all, is a novel about the concept of war. Whilst all the characters are dynamic and complicated, they will incite one of two emotions in the reader, empathy or a general disdain.

The story moves at a cracking pace; it’s tragic, suspenseful, desperate and desolate and the conflict at times is brutally confronting; something we all need in this present day to make us take note to what is happening outside our own comfort zone.  Unlike our daily media reporting this novel is able to give the situation an underlying human perspective, which we all too often fail to acknowledge.

Ultimately, this story is a depiction of how continuing conflict can cause individuals to lose track of what is going on, and the actual reason they are at war. How it tears families apart while at the same time it bringing them back together.

To get a better understanding of how this works, how the characters and circumstances work together in this region, you really need to read the novel.  To try to describe it here would be to do an injustice to a sensitively covered topic, which has us reeling in the modern media.

I would definitely recommend this novel to lovers of international political and contemporary fiction and anyone who takes a keen interest in world affairs.

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