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The Marrying of Chani Kaufman

3.61  ·  Rating Details ·  2,755 Ratings  ·  361 Reviews
19 year-old Chani lives in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community of North West London. She has never had physical contact with a man, but is bound to marry a stranger. The rabbi's wife teaches her what it means to be a Jewish wife, but Rivka has her own questions to answer. Soon buried secrets, fear and sexual desire bubble to the surface in a story of liberation and choice; ...more
Paperback, 350 pages
Published August 1st 2013 by Sandstone Press
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Audrey Yes. Because of how insular the ultra-Orthodox community is, their communication to the outside world is very limited and they can be incredibly…moreYes. Because of how insular the ultra-Orthodox community is, their communication to the outside world is very limited and they can be incredibly sheltered.

I grew up in a modern-Orthodox household, and kept shomer negiya for almost two years. It was a fascinating experience and really alerted me to how much touch makes a difference in our everyday life. I made the choice voluntarily, which made the experience all the more rewarding. Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox teens often don't have the same choice - not because it is forced upon them, but because they don't know anything else. It's a facet of the community so strong that they don't think of what it would be like any other way.

The same concept follows through to many of the other aspects of their life. Being from the modern-Orthodox community, we were significantly more liberal than the community described in the book. Almost every (but not all) homes had a TV in my community, but it was not unheard of for the families to significantly limit what was watched. I remember a friend telling me when we were 12 that she had never seen a movie with a rating more than G. With no way to get to the movie theater and TV restrictions on the public access, her parents could limit her viewing in such a way and chose to do so to protect her.

I am not surprised that they were depicted as so innocent. When you don't know anything else, you don't think to explore or to question.

About the sex aspect - I attended an Orthodox high school. I got threatened with suspension for challenging our sex-ed classes. Because we received partial government funding, we were mandated to meet some education criteria. When I fought for contraception education, many teachers were appalled saying such education was encouraging premarital sex. I took the approach that teens will do what they do and it's best to protect them, but that was not received well at all. Teens may do what they do, but OUR teens would never dream of such a thing.

I grew up very sheltered. I didn't have my first non-Jewish friends until I was 13 and spent two years in public school (before being sent back to Jewish day school). I was not nearly as sheltered as the community in the book, however. Simply being afforded the option to attend public school for a period of time was met with skepticism by many of my classmate's parents who thought such an education was wrong or incomplete without Torah instruction. I knew many families who grew up ultra-Orthodox. I remember walking to synagogue and having men avert their eyes rather than look at me in my bright colored clothing. I was dressed modestly - long skirts, long sleeves, nothing revealing - but my colors were too flashy and would attract such attention the men felt the need to avert their eyes. This community exists in many locations - New York, Baltimore, London, Jerusalem, and many other locations - and I was very impressed with the book for capturing it in such eloquent terms. (less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Andrea I noticed that too!! I also noticed that Avromi sees Shola in 2010 but it refers as 2 weeks after they broke up (in 2008).

Community Reviews

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Aug 25, 2013 Elaine rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2013
Only HaShem knows what the Booker Prize folks were thinking when they longlisted this one. This is chick lit in the most derogatory sense of the term - badly written female-centric drivel about romance and family. It's also a bubbe meise in the way my own bubbe used that phrase - which she did not use in the Wikipedia-approved sense of an old wives' tale, to her, in her Yinglish vernacular, bubbe meiser meant an movie or book appealing to sentimentality (so many times after we'd both gotten chok ...more
Frieda Vizel
Mar 15, 2014 Frieda Vizel rated it did not like it
I should begin my review by saying two things about my own interest in this book: 1. I grew up ultra-orthodox and 2. I left ultra-orthodoxy at 25.

The book is a compilation of several fictional stories about a few individuals in the ultra-orthodox community. The stories are unoriginal; about a couple meeting through a shidduch, a meddlesome mother in law, a young yeshiva boy who has an affair with a black girl and a middle-aged woman who runs off from the community. The stories are cut up in cha
Sep 21, 2013 Judy rated it did not like it
"The bride stood like a pillar of salt, rigid under layers of itchy petticoats." This inept metaphor is the first line of this insulting, cliche-ridden, unreadable novel, and is a good summary of the author's acute hated for all things Jewish and orthodox.

Having this book long-listed for the Man Booker Prize was like awarding Yasir Arafat the Nobel Peace Prize. Ostensibly this is a story about a very young couple, Chanie and Baruch, who marry after an almost non-existent, rapid courtship, but it
Oct 16, 2013 Nora rated it it was ok
Please don't read this book if you don't know a lot about judaism.

I would have liked to give this book a bad review from start to finish, however I can't. The characters are well developed and three-dimensional. I am sure some people from the Haredi community do feel the way Eve Harris describes it. But she makes one belief that this is the majority. It is NOT!

The gross generalisation and simplification about a religious niche is appalling.

If you don't know a lot about judaism or are committed t
Mark Staniforth
Sep 06, 2013 Mark Staniforth rated it really liked it
There is one significant flaw at the heart of Eve Harris’ debut novel, 'The Marrying Of Chani Kaufman'. It is one which will have no end of academics wringing their hands in exasperation; Folio founders sighing with relief that their new Prize actually has a point.
And it is this: ‘The Marrying Of Chani Kaufman’, Harris’s story of the imminent marriage of two young Haredi Jews, is far, far too readable. It is carry-round-the-house too readable. It is stay-up-way-too-late too readable. It is absol
Diane S ☔
May 30, 2014 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
3.5 I knew absolutely nothing about the Jewish Orthodox culture before reading this book, so I could not understand many of the terms and words used. Thankfully a glossary was included at the end of the book.

Chani is a young woman, about to be married. All marriages in this culture are arranged through a matchmaker, and there are specific steps taken leading up to the event. The young woman are kept ignorant on exactly what is going to happen on their wedding night. Chain is a rather more spirit
Jakey Gee
Sep 01, 2013 Jakey Gee rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
Beseder, but not exactly yoffi.

This is, of course, a promising proposition and ought to be fascinating, after all. I give you: an intimate look at the unknown, parallel Charedi universe. You know: black fedoras, white shirts, living daily life in awe of all-seeing ha Shem (all-seeing, that is, apart from the bit where you get-around-his-objection-to-you-showing-your-hair-by-donning-a-nylon-syrup, all-seeing).

I suppose I went in hoping for, well, a sort of Brick Lane goes Golders Green. For stro
Rebecca Foster
“The bride stood like a pillar of salt, rigid under layers of itchy petticoats.” I loved that first line, with its biblical resonance and its hint that this is not an entirely comfortable marriage. Chani is the fifth of eight daughters in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family in North London’s Golders Green. I’ve read another novel set in London’s Jewish community, Francesca Segal’s stunning debut, The Innocents; although Chani is not nearly as sophisticated, it taught me more about orthodox customs. ...more
Aug 09, 2013 Antonomasia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Antonomasia by: Booker longlist
Likeable and a page-turner - despite the characters and plot being quite clichéd and the writing style not enough to transcend that.

There are a few clumsy similes using biblical imagery but otherwise the writing is quite plain, bluntly spelling out far too much and making the occasional detour into what sounds like typical creative-writing course description.

Perhaps it's because I've read quite a few books set in strict religious communities and other restrictive societies, but it was formulai
Ben Dutton
Aug 25, 2013 Ben Dutton rated it really liked it
It is a great success to have your debut novel long-listed for The Man Booker Prize. It means reviews from critics who would probably have overlooked you. It means sales you’d probably otherwise not have gotten. It also means your novel is looked at far more critically than it would have been had it not been long-listed. The last few weeks have seen a number of reviews of Eve Harris’ debut novel, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, published through small Scottish label, Sandstone Press, and the revi ...more
Green Giraffe
Mar 09, 2014 Green Giraffe rated it did not like it
This has the sort of libelous depictions of Jewry that is tantamount to antisemitic propaganda. Yes, the author is Jewish, but she has absolutely no knowledge, no intimacy with the world she claims to depict.

How do I know? I'm an Orthodox Jew!

One or two of the laws she gets correct, but everything else? Laughably inaccurate. Harris is so devoid of vision, slavishly devoted to her biases against the religious (I had a few college professors like her) that she can't even comprehend that a religi
May 29, 2015 Hillary rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this novel! I know some people have stated it is "clearly" driven by hatred of the Haredi movement, or that it is "obviously" written by someone who holds a grudge against this type of very observant Jewish community. I do not know the motivation or intention of the author but I would not have come to that conclusion. I found the women in this book to be very well developed, sympathetic characters. The Rebbetzin is fascinatin. I did not expect the choices she made when she becam ...more
Aug 07, 2014 Marilyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this book. If you want to learn about women's lives in an Orthodox Jewish community (this one is in England), this novel is excellent. The writer knows and writes about her characters extremely well. The world is small and claustrophobic, but it there are women (and men) who question, who step outside bounds. But there are consequences.

There are universal themes, including friendships across different lifestyles, searching for answers in religion/spirituality, desires v
Jan 16, 2016 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh I enjoyed this read, and I see why it has such acclaim! But I think the audiences who would appreciate it are narrow. It definitely falls into the experience of those of us who are secular Jews, but have pondered the decisions (and sacrifices) that have to be made, to enter a more observant life. I think the book depicts these tensions fairly, and without disparagement to either side of the question. For that reason it is heart-rendering and touching. It is well written, definitely with Briti ...more
Chani Kaufman and Baruch Levy are young observant Jews who are to be married after only a few meetings, as dictated by religion and tradition. Also according to religion and tradition they have never touched, never even held hands. This book does a lovely job of depicting the anxieties and challenges associated with such an arrangement while respecting its validity and the joy which can come of it. The characters in this book are multi-dimensional, each struggling in his or her own way to define ...more
Ceri Chaudhry
Mar 07, 2014 Ceri Chaudhry rated it it was amazing
The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris

If you are looking for a book to really immerse yourself in, this lovely book by Eve Harris would be a great choice. The novel focuses on a group of characters from an orthodox Jewish community in north London. This, in itself, makes for a fascinating read. I learnt so much that I didn’t know and it was really enlightening to find out more about the daily life of orthodox Jewish families. I became completely engrossed in reading about this way of life,
Jun 14, 2014 Robin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one, really
So, I was looking forward to reading this, as I live in an area with very few Jews and, for reasons I won't get into, we haven't been making the trip to our synagogue lately. A Jewish-themed contemporary near-winner of a prestigious literary prize: I want to read it!

I am sorry to report that, 4 chapters in, this is a pretty cliche-ridden story. I can't write anything better than the many other reviewers on goodreads who have expressed disappointment in this one. I had hoped for a smart, feeling,
Jan 05, 2014 Valeria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received a copy of this book through the goodreads giveaway in exchange for a review.

I absolutely fell in love with Eve Harris’ new novel, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman; it’s a poignant and exquisite story full of vivid characters that will beguile you. I know very little of the Orthodox jewish culture and this book allowed me to peek into their world. I was mesmerized and enchanted and I, for one, certainly did not want this amazing story to end. The author has written about a world that wil
Nov 11, 2013 Hanna rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
Subject: Orthodox (Haredi) Judaism
Setting London and Israel
Plot: A young couple is getting married, due to social pressure in their environment. They don't really know each other. Everyone involved in the wedding has their own story, which is also told.
Message: Orthodox Judaism is great in many ways, but there are some very petty people around, and the culture does not allow for a lot of individuality and can be stifling.
My Comments: The plot is really quite limited, it's the background storie
Aug 26, 2013 Venuskitten rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 26, 2013 Lisaleh rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. Overall, this book was "meh."

I can see how someone completely unfamiliar with Orthodox Judaism, or someone who has never read a novel about religious Jews, would find this book compelling. But for me, it only offered stereotypical characters who I've encountered in any number of books of this genre. It offered nothing new. The characters weren't as well drawn as they should/could have been and as you say, their motivations were not well explored. As for the writing, it was a quick, l
Dec 02, 2015 Nirit rated it it was ok
ספר חביב, זורם מהר, אבל לא נותן הרבה מעבר להצצה אנתרופולוגית על קהילה שלא כ"כ מוכרת לחלק מהקוראים. רק באמצע הספר הסופרת זונחת את ההסברים האנתרופולוגיים, ומתחילה לספר את הסיפור. למרבה הצער, הספר נגמר בשלב שבו הסיפור מתחיל להתרומם ולרתק.
קראתי שהשוו את הספר ל"גאווה ודעה קדומה" של ג'יין אוסטין. בעיני זאת השוואה מגוחכת. העובדה שיש בספר גיבורה שמעזה לומר את דעתה בחברה שבה נשים כמעט שאינן מביעות דעה, עדיין לא הופכת את הספר לדומה ליצירת המופת. חסרה הכתיבה השנונה של ג'יין אוסטין, וחסרה העלילה הסוחפת.
Deborah Feldman
Feb 06, 2014 Deborah Feldman rated it it was amazing
Like a surgeon cutting into human flesh for the first time, Eve Harris audaciously dissects a community defined by inscrutable social mores; her profound reverence for her characters in no way hinders her intrepid plunge into the murky viscera of this complex world. Readers will be mesmerized by Harris's unforgettable voice; this powerful debut novel is a startling and effervescent contribution to a canon much in need of enrichment.
Patricia O'Brien
Aug 17, 2013 Patricia O'Brien rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club
I cannot see any reason at all why this book is on the Booker list. It's not well written - I was also looking forward to gaining some insight into Jewish faith, customs and traditions, but even in this aspect the book was ineffective. Those who like 'kitchen sink' stuff would probably like it - I didn't.
Renita D'Silva
Sep 05, 2014 Renita D'Silva rated it liked it
An astutely written story about the emotional turmoil of an Orthodox Jewish girl on the cusp of marriage, contrasting with the story of the Rabbi's wife, who has been married for years and has arrived at a crossroads, questioning her choices even as she guides the young brides-to-be in her care.
I really enjoyed this book. Like a monster, I devoured it within a day, learning more and more about the Jewish Ultra-Orthodox religion and lifestyle that I had ever known before.

This book revolves around Chani Kaufman, a young 19 year-old girl about to enter an arranged marriage. It also entails the stories of many other people in her community, as well as Chani and her groom to be. You realise how difficult it is to be brought up in a world with strict religious traditions, but yet being so c
Feb 24, 2014 Tripfiction rated it really liked it
"Frum" in Golders Green/Hendon LONDON

A tender, and at times frank peak behind the Scheitel (wig) culture of the Ultra-Orthodox community in the Golders Green/Hendon area of London.

It is a brave thing that a non-Haredi chooses to write about a culture that keeps its doors firmly closed to the outside world of modern Western culture. But I think the author has really achieved a good balance of insight, empathy and reality (as far as one can tell, of course), and for this she was rewarded by being
I have no idea how this book was nominated for a Man-Booker prize. I'm not even sure why I finished it. I could have stopped reading this 1/4 of the way through and saved myself the time and the aggravation.

This was generally terrible. None of the characters have any redeeming qualities, none of them are even somewhat likable. The story - what story? There really isn't one. It jumps through time to describe the courtship of Chani, and then even further back in time to describe the life and court
I have very mixed feeling about this book. I really liked the two main story lines; that of Chani and Baurch, and the Rebbetzin and the Rabbi, as well as that of Avromi. I thought the author handled their developing relationships and their thoughts about their orthodox religion well. I found each storyline believable and totally engaging. I read this book very quickly because I could not put it down, I needed to find out how each couple's journey progressed. I did have a few quibbles; Chani did ...more
Chana Billet
Apr 22, 2014 Chana Billet rated it really liked it
Eat your heart our Wendy Shalit. The genre of Jewish women writing about female Jewish protagonists continues.

I really enjoyed Eve Harris' debut novel, which was deservedly long-listed for the Booker Prize. Granted, she wrote about a world similar to mine, but I enjoyed the novel with the same enthusiasm I reserve for ethnic writers like Jumpa Lahiri, just substitute Indian culture for orthodox Jews.

Her characters are engaging, her details spot-on. At times, I laughed at how specifically funny s
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Eve Harris was born to Israeli-Polish parents in Chiswick, West London, in 1973. She taught for 12 years at inner-city comprehensives and independent schools in London and also in Tel Aviv, after moving to Israel in 1999. She returned to London in 2002 to resume teaching at an all girls' Catholic convent school. 'The Marrying of Chani Kaufman' was inspired by her final year of teaching at an all g ...more
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“He was in his second year of a Philosophy and Politics degree and had no idea what to do afterwards. Open a philosophy shop perhaps. For his keep he gave private English lessons or proof” 0 likes
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