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A Pigeon and a Boy

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,834 Ratings  ·  268 Reviews
From the internationally acclaimed Israeli writer Meir Shalev comes a mesmerizing novel of two love stories, separated by half a century but connected by one enchanting act of devotion. During the 1948 War of Independence--a time when pigeons are still used to deliver battlefield messages--a gifted young pigeon handler is mortally wounded. In the moments before his death, ...more
Hardcover, 312 pages
Published October 16th 2007 by Schocken (first published 2006)
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A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos OzThe Blue Mountain by Meir ShalevSee Under by David GrossmanTo the End of the Land by David GrossmanA Pigeon and a Boy by Meir Shalev
Best Israeli Reads
5th out of 74 books — 57 voters
Past Continuous by Yaakov ShabtaiA Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos OzThe Blue Mountain by Meir ShalevChariots on the Highway by Limor MoyalSee Under by David Grossman
Translations from Hebrew
8th out of 60 books — 18 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Forgive me for showing off a little -- I'm actually reading this in the original Hebrew. I know it was entirely unnecessary for me to point that out, but I'm excited about my new quest to improve my Hebrew literacy. Also, I wanted to let you know in advance that it will take me a long time to post my review!

Ok -- here's my review. Reading this book was an interesting experience, on a variety of levels. When you read in a foreign language and you find yourself criticizing the book, it's not alway
Tamara Silver
Aug 14, 2012 Tamara Silver rated it really liked it
This book is about home. About how your home houses more that your body, but also your soul. Some of us live in the wrong home all of our lives and some of us are lucky to find the perfect fit. It is also about undying, deep, aching, love. And pigeons, yes, you will learn about carrier (homing - get it?!) pigeons. It has moments of beauty and jewels of phrases. Here is one of my favorites: The ground, which here is not corseted with cement and straitjacketed with asphalt, shifts in a slow, never ...more
Dec 25, 2007 Roger rated it liked it
I read this book in a Contemporary Jewish Literature class, and was lucky enough to go hear Shalev speak while in the middle of reading the novel. He was a very funny, interesting guy, and this is a very entertaining, interesting book. I really enjoyed reading it and zoomed right through it. The somewhat low 3-star rating I gave it is for the feeling I got after finishing the book -- that is, a feeling if disconnection. The book is made up of two narratives, both of which are beautifully written ...more
Talia Carner
Oct 06, 2011 Talia Carner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish-fiction
A masterpiece of two woven stories, the love story between two pigeon handlers in the period prior to Israel's War of Independence framed and intersected by that of a tour guide specializing in bird watching who learns the details of the tale from one of his guests.

In this unlikely subject, the reader is treated to learning the habits and handling of homing pigeons that served as reliable means of communication during the British Mandate of the land of Israel until 1948.

It is hard to do this s
Jun 11, 2011 Merilee rated it really liked it
I throughly enjoyed this novel, which jumps back and forth between 1948 Israeli independence battles and the present, with much about carrier-pigeons and ordinary birds. It is very much a (very confusing) love story, with some magical realism here and there but not enough to drive me crazy.
Feb 08, 2012 Judy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who loves beautiful prose
Recommended to Judy by: Naomi Jensen
This is an absolutely beautiful story from beginning to end. The prose is gorgeous and captivating, allowing the reader to thoroughly feel the setting and the emotions. The story takes place in two time periods, present day Israel and pre-1948 war Palestine. It isn't clear from the start how the two stories will come together, but I never found it confusing or difficult that two stories were being told. When it does all come together, it is in a very satisfying way. The more modern story involve ...more
Jan 24, 2014 Sofia rated it really liked it
It is a beautifully written story about first love. However, it is much more than that. It is a book about a home, not a house, but a home which takes on many different meanings in the story. It is a home which pigeons know how to find and fly to which is incredible by itself, especially when coupled with images of Israel. It is also a home for our first love which most people have in their heart and carry through life. It is a home where we want to feel unconditionally loved and accepted. It is ...more
From the description, this sounded like a lovely book, but it was a big disappointment for me. It took a long time for the story to get started and there were very few characters that I would call likeable. In fact, the main character, Yair, was extremely un-likeable. There were also some parts of the story that defied belief. I did like the parts about caring for the homing pigeons. Thought there was far, far too much detail about house renovations. I did like the way the two threads tied toget ...more
Carol Feldman
I was living in Israel the first time I read a borrowed copy of this. I loved it and bought a copy of it for myself only to give it away as a gift to someone who never opened it.

I love this book. I could taste the olives, feel the hot air, hear the distinctive voices of the characters and underneath, feel the cruelty of war and the necessity of belonging.
Usually, the books I love are ones I can't put down, but A Pigeon and a Boy was different. I read it slowly and over time. Even with the transl
May 22, 2015 Dov rated it it was amazing
Shalev is a masterful storyteller and though I thought of rating this a four, a flawed book by Shalev is more brilliant than a thousand "perfect" books. So, I will say, there were a few things about this book that were a bit heavy-handed, and a few things frustrating and annoying. I'll get that out of the way though I won't go on about what I didn't like at this point, because I want to say what moved me.

This is a strange, lively, inquisitive story about home and not home, about finding a way to

I just finished reading the incredible novel, A Pigeon and a Boy, by Meir Shalev. I purchased this book last week, and put it on the top of my tall stack of books to read. After reading the jacket, I decided it was a book I wanted to read, and must read, immediately. The book didn’t disappoint me in the least, in fact I was quite surprised, emotionally overwhelmed and amazed at the content and how it affected me.

I am still wrapped in the emotional aftermath from reading this incredible story of
Jun 10, 2011 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: C21st Fiction
A Pigeon and a Boy is a love story really, but not like any you’ve read before. It takes place during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948 and the present. There are links between the two but it would ruin the book for readers to explain what they are. Suffice to say that Yair Mendelsohn, the central character, makes a life-changing decision to make a home of his own and in the quest to find his own identity makes some interesting discoveries about himself and his family. Yair, whose father w ...more
May 14, 2007 Michal rated it it was amazing
I love love love Meir Shalev. I can't think of a book of his that I didn't like (I hear Fontanela is not as good, but haven't read it), and this one is no exception.
All his books show a deep love and connection with Israel, and I mean the good old idealistic Israel, not the Big Bowl of Crazy it has become. He knows how to write people, and his women especially are very well written.
Like all his books, this one takes a few pages before it draws you in, but once it does it is a very interesting
Timothy Cole
Why did I take so long to read this book? Actually, the real question is why did it take so long for me to finish this book since I read all but the last 30 pages in just the few days after receiving it. And I have an answer for that: I hate to finish anything that's good; I want the flavor to last. I eat my meals slowly, sometimes rewarming them (not in a microwave, though--that's sterilization). All my model planes remain in semi-finished condition; my fiction unresolved, well-developed plots; ...more
Oct 08, 2014 Rafael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-spanish
Es una historia que podría deleitar a los colombofilos y aquellos ornitologos, que descifran el comportamiento de todas las aves que migran y llegan a Israel. El personaje que cuenta es un guía que lleva a turistas para que avisten todo tipo de pájaros, grullas, patos, cigüeñas etc etc.
La relación casa-poseedor de la casa es casi un diálogo de amor, así mismo la creación de palomares que fueron usados por el Palmaj en la época anterior a la fundación del Edo. De Israel y durante la guerra de in
Aug 13, 2014 Chen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lobby-book-club
So this was an interesting experiment.
To rad an Israeli book in English.

It was great, but really, never again.
I spent too much time thinking "I bet this is what it was like in Hebrew" or wondering "What was it in Hebrew?"

If you *can* read a book in the original language, do so.
But my gut tells me this is not a bad translation at all.

Plus, considering I walked into my building one day, and found an Israeli translated book waiting for me in the lobby, or more accurately waiting for whomever got t
Jul 26, 2014 Stephanie rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Daniel Chaikin
May 17, 2014 Daniel Chaikin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe if I understood this book a little bit better I would give it five stars. But for now I can only wonder about the various meanings of home and odd series of events at the end that require some rethinking. Maybe I should read it again.

Among the side effects here is a story of Israel's war of independence, and of the mixture and tensions that make up the Jewish side of modern Israel, and of homing pigeons and death and generations and relationships and sex and various explorations of the me
Jul 31, 2013 Sarah rated it liked it
The things I like most about A Pigeon and a Boy are the excellent writing style, the intriguing story, and the believable characters. Some character personalities frustrated me, including that of the protagonist, but I appreciate the author's effort to show a realistic person instead of striving only to make him likeable.

Regarding several scenes of an intimate nature between certain characters, my personal taste when reading about them is: less is more. Shalev is an author does not shy away from
Oct 19, 2008 Kimmay rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 02, 2015 Mintzis rated it really liked it
Very moving story of love during the war in liberation. I debated about a fifth star and then decided that some of the devices used to lift the love story to another realm were a little hoaky. I'm not quite sure a son would have such intimate details of his parents relationship. So he's embellishing but not quite admitting to the embellishment. I also don't buy that children really look like one or another of a parent. Again he's in fantasy world. It's kind of like Chagall in words.
Yosef Gotlieb
Apr 20, 2014 Yosef Gotlieb rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all.
A fine work portraying a formative period in Israel's development as seen through the eyes of a native son conceived in tragedy. Protected throughout his life from the specter, a shadow nonetheless looms and in midlife the protagonist creates his own haven to renew and heal his soul.

Shalev is a sensitive craftsman writing with acute sensibilities. I look forward to reading his other works.
Melissa Standley
May 10, 2010 Melissa Standley rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful novel--I really can't emphasize enough how gorgeous it is. I bought it for my birthday the year before I left South Carolina.

A Pigeon and a Boy gives readers a look at regular life in Israel during its War of Independence and at regular life in Israel now. The novel starts in the present-day and then flashes back to before the main character, Yair, was born. It tells the story of how his parents met and the miracle of his birth.

Then the story flashes forward again to the pr
Renée Damstra
Aug 04, 2014 Renée Damstra rated it really liked it
Prachtig verhaal of eigenlijk twee verhalen, die in zekere zin maar niet bijzonder sterk met elkaar samenhangen. Onvoorspelbaar plot, en met name heel-erg-sterk beschreven in beeldtaal.

De enige momenten dat ik toch mijn wenkbrauw optrok was richting het einde. Hoofdpersoon1 vermoord een duif? Ok? Kan er wel iets bij voorstellen gezien zijn achtergrond als bastaardzoon van een gesneuvelde duivenmelker, maar vond het veel te sterk aangezet, ongeloofwaardig, was ineens het personage kwijt. En ook
Jul 20, 2013 Sue rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, jewish, israel
This is an interweaving of two story lines into one. A tale of a young man and a young woman who each care for pigeons in the time before Israel's independence. The pigeons are used to deliver messages during the war. It's also the story of a man seemingly in a mid-life crisis who finds an old house, buys it, and then renovates it with the help of the woman he'd loved as a young boy.
I found myself confused in the beginning as the book went back and forth between the two times and the two stori
May 06, 2009 Karen rated it really liked it
This book is composed of two narrative threads, one of which was gorgeous and made me bawl a couple of times on the subway. The other seemed kind of half-baked, in terms of both character and plot. (And the way they connect - i.e., the spoon and the syringe thing - is also kind of... huh? Was that necessary?) I'm not sure why Shalev didn't just stick with the homing pigeon narrative - maybe he was afraid that readers would be turned off by a pure history lesson/fairy tale so he decided to couch ...more
Dec 14, 2008 Kevin rated it liked it
The book became more compelling as it appeared that the two separate threads would come together. It was not hard to see where the book was going. Some parts of it are rather surreal. And some parts are rather unbelievable. But it was well-told despite some errors in translation and some in proofreading.

I got to like some of the characters a great deal, especially Meshulam who provided a comic touch in his way. Although birds, Israel, and the 1948 war are featured, one does not need to have any
Sep 28, 2014 Michal rated it really liked it
If you are Israeli, there is a lot here to chew on. He hits on some of the reoccurring issues Israelis have faced since before the establishment of the state. I suppose if you have ever been an immigrant this could resonate with you. Don't read this thinking you'll understand Israel afterwards. This is the insider's view.

I could have done without the epilog or last chapter or whatever it is at the end. It spoiled it for me.

The translation is excellent. It is smooth and fluent and I never felt i
Bookmarks Magazine

Meir Shalev is one of Israel's most celebrated novelists. Although less well known in the United States, the critically acclaimed A Pigeon and a Boy, which won Israel's prestigious Brenner Prize, should introduce Shalev to a much wider audience. Intertwining two love stories with Israel's fight for independence, the novel offers a compelling portrait of Israel's period before statehood to the present day. With homing pigeons as a recurring motif, Shalev explores themes of home, memory, and survi

Hélène Wilkinson
Nov 19, 2015 Hélène Wilkinson rated it liked it
There was much that I found to enjoy in A Pigeon and a Boy by Meir Shalev, a tale of love and war, family and home, man and beast - well, boy and pigeon. I did not, however, enjoy what I felt was the incredibly slow pace of this novel. The dust jacket of my copy quotes a lyrical Daily Telegraph review: “It is as though the Song of Solomon had been rewritten by Gabriel García Márquez…” Maybe that’s my trouble, I never did get manage to get into One Hundred Years of Solitude

So I admit to almost g
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Meir Shalev is one of Israel’s most celebrated novelists. He has received many awards for his work, including the National Jewish Book Award and Israel’s Brenner Prize, both for A Pigeon and a Boy.

A columnist for the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Shalev lives in Jerusalem and in northern Israel with his wife and children.

More about Meir Shalev...

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“A woman has to look good, but a man—a little bit nicer looking than a monkey is enough.” 3 likes
“Mine is the tongue tied silence of awkwardness, hers the smiling silence of anticipation, and then we utter inanities to each other, like "beautiful weather arranged for us" and "I like these kind of clouds.” 2 likes
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