The People of Forever are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu – Book Review

The People of Forever are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu
Published by Hogarth, an imprint of Random House

From the Publisher:

Yael, Avishag, and Lea grow up together in a tiny, dusty Israeli village, attending a high school made up of caravan classrooms, passing notes to each other to alleviate the universal boredom of teenage life. When they are conscripted into the army, their lives change in unpredictable ways, influencing the women they become and the friendship that they struggle to sustain. Yael trains marksmen and flirts with boys. Avishag stands guard, watching refugees throw themselves at barbed-wire fences. Lea, posted at a checkpoint, imagines the stories behind the familiar faces that pass by her day after day. They gossip about boys and whisper of an ever more violent world just beyond view. They drill, constantly, for a moment that may never come. They live inside that single, intense second just before danger erupts.

The People of Forever are Not Afraid is a powerful book. The girls all have difficult lives, and their time in the Israeli Army don’t make things any easier. If anything, one gets the feeling that the army has them even more screwed up than they were as children, and these psychological issues are something that they will pass down to their own children. None of the girls are particularly likeable, and in going between the three of them we don’t get to know any one of them overly well, but their vulnerabilities still make them characters with whom the reader can empathize, even if he or she has experienced nothing likeĀ  seeing a coworker stabbed while guarding a checkpoint.

The style of The People of Forever are Not Afraid can be challenging at times – it is not always immediately apparent which girl is the focus of a specific chapter – but it is a worthwhile read, both for the foreign-to-many experience it chronicles and for how compelling it makes the lives of these young women. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Netgalley.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant – Book Review

Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant
Published by W.W. Norton & Co

Israel provides the backdrop for Joan Leegant’s Wherever You Go. Her three main character – Yona, Mark Greenglass, and Aaron – find themselves there for reasons as varied as reconciliation attempts, the fleeting saving power of religion, and an attempt to finally excel at something in life. Although they have very different relationships with both Israel and Judaism, they find themselves in situations which bring them closer and closer to one another in an event that will drastically change all of their lives.

Leegant’s command of her prose is masterful. She creates a vivid picture of her characters and the landscape that surrounds them. Particularly impressive is the way she uses her prose style to build anticipation leading up to the climax. Each of the three main characters alternates chapters; the first three chapters, which introduce the protagonists, span some 60 pages. By contrast, the last three chapters of the first part, at the high point of the action, cover only 10 pages, the majority of that being the final chapter. The downwards creep in chapter length is subtle, but incredibly effective, all but forcing the reader to turn the pages faster. At the same time, though, Leegant doesn’t resort to cheap, manipulative tactics such as manufactured cliff hangers at the end of chapters. The tension she creates is authentic, based on her skill both in the craft of writing and in creating realistic characters in whom the reader can invest a great deal.

Being Jewish is by no means a prerequisite for enjoying and becoming invested in Wherever You Go. Leegant’s characters may be Jewish, but her themes of estrangement, reconciliation, and crisis of identity are universal. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Author.

* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva – Book Review

The Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva
Published by Putnam Books, an imprint of Penguin

When an art restorer is shot in his home in the middle of a summer rash with art theft, it seems to be no more than a robbery gone wrong. Unfortunately, that proves not to be the case. A valuable, almost unknown Rembrandt is missing. There’s too much at stake to make this public knowledge, so the art dealer who has been in possession of the Rembrandt contacts his old friend Gabriel Allon, an art restorer and retired Israeli spy and assassin. As Gabriel begins to investigate the history of the painting, he discovers it has a very dicey provenance, disappearing from the possession of a Jewish man in Amsterdam during World War II. This history makes things personal for Gabriel, and he is determined to do whatever it takes to find this painting and get to the bottom of the theft.

What a smart thriller! One thing I really appreciated is that Silva does not treat his readers as if they were stupid. One thing that drives me crazy about a lot of thrillers is that authors often write unnecessarily short chapters with ridiculous cliffhangers in order to keep the story moving. Sometimes it works, but oftentimes it is simply obnoxious. Silva does not indulge in any of that. His chapters are as long as they need to be, without any manufactured drama. It made me feel as if Silva valued my intelligence as a reader. Yes, it meant that “The Rembrandt Affair” started more slowly than many thrillers, but Silva built suspense organically, the tension growing as Gabriel got deeper into the case. Indeed, every time I picked up the book, it grew more and more difficult to put it back down.

Gabriel, by the way, is my new favorite spy. Yes, he’s an assassin, but he’s an assassin with a conscious. Plus, he is a cultured, sophisticated art restorer – and this is a real passion, not simply his cover. And he’s in a monogamous relationship, so no oh-so-predictable sexual tension between the main character and the woman he must work with, which was refreshing for a change.

Let me also just say, this is one of the most beautiful hardcover books I’ve seen in some time. The art on the inside of the front and back covers was lovely, and the page before the title page was gorgeous, looking as if it had been painted, with texture so realistic I could almost feel it. And the paper it was printed on was rapturous. Yes, I know, that sounds far too strong a word for paper, but it was so incredibly thick and luxurious that every time I turned the page I stopped and thumbed the page. Actually, I was a bit worried when I first saw the book, because I assumed from the heft that it was well over 700 pages, but it was really just under 500 pages of wonderfully thick paper.

A great, smart thriller in an absolutely beautiful package. Personally I can’t wait to get my hands on more books from the Gabriel Allon series. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound

This review was done with a book received from Lydia at Putnam.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.