I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review
LOVE AND WAR IN BRITISH PALESTINE starts out with two nurses — Tamar and Alisa — talking in a cafe in 1942. Alisa is brash, loud and loves to talk. Tamar is quieter by comparison. She gets lost in her own thoughts a lot and compares her old life in Vienna with her new life in Jerusalem. The reader finds out right away that Tamar is Jewish. This plays very heavily into the story as a whole. I’m not sure if Alisa is Jewish or Christian, but, either way, she comes across as a strong contrast to her best friend. When I started reading, I felt Alisa over shadowed Tamar with her powerful personality. I learned to admire Tamar for her quiet reserve and — more intriguing to the overall plot — deep secrets.
The main story is a tale of forbidden love set between 1938-1942. There is also a modern frame set up when Tamar’s grandson Johnathon discovers long hidden family photos while going through her things after her funeral. His curiosity is raised when Alisa makes an off hand comment during Tamar’s funeral that he looks like his grandfather. Johnathon is skeptical. He doesn’t look a think like his grandfather….but he does look like the mysterious Wolfgang from Grandma Tamar’s pictures. Could Wolfgang be his real grandfather?
While I did enjoy the main plot of forbidden love and family secrets in LOVE AND WAR IN BRITISH PALESTINE, the writing style really annoyed me. It wasn’t that it was bad — just very overblown and flowery, like the writer was trying too hard and overused adjectives. It’s possible he thought it would set the scene better but, to me, it hurt the overall narrative. The story and characters got lost in all the round about, serpentine description of people and places. I lost the main thread/idea of the paragraphs more than once as I went through the book. At times, I found myself having to re-read sections to understand who was talking or thinking. Eventually, I started editing it in my head as I read to make it clearer all around. I think a “less is more” approach or a stronger edit would have helped this book tremendously. I did notice that it is translated from Hebrew. I don’t know if this is a translation issue or just the writer’s style.
Overall, I liked the book. The setting is unique and the themes of family secrets and forbidden love are engaging. I just wish the editing and writing lived up to my expectations.