Sunday, January 11, 2009

Laura's Review - When I Lived in Modern Times

When I Lived in Modern Times
Linda Grant
260 pages

I felt as if we were all half here and half somewhere else, deprived of our native languages, stumbling over an ugly ancient tongue. We knew that we were to be remade and reborn and we half did and half didjn't want to be. We were caught up in a plan to socially engineer our souls ... to emerge as molten, liquid, golden Jewish humanity. (p. 105)

In 1946, Evelyn Sert left London for Palestine, to be part of Israel's formation. Her first few weeks were spent on a kibbutz, but she quickly tired of the menial labor. She befriended a young man named Johnny, who took her to Tel Aviv. Once there, Evelyn found work as a hairdresser and moved between the Jewish and British communities, feeling uncomfortable in both. Meanwhile, as political events intensified, so did her relationship with Johnny. Evelyn lived in denial of Johnny's involvement in the political movement, unwittingly contributing information to support his cause and ultimately getting in over her head.

I enjoyed the first half of this book as Evelyn settled into a new life in a new country. But my enthusiasm waned as she moved aimlessly from one situation to the next. I found Evelyn & Johnny's relationship a bit of a stretch. It was not clear what she saw in him, or why he would be devoted to her. This book would be interesting to those wishing to learn more about the birth of Israel, and it puts today's events in historical context. However, I was hoping for a more character-driven novel and in that respect I was disappointed. ( )

My original review can be found here.

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