Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Davita's Harp” as Want to Read:
Davita's Harp
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Davita's Harp

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  3,848 ratings  ·  228 reviews
For Davita Chandal, growing up in the New York of the 1930s and '40s is an experience of indescribable joy - and unfathomable sadness. Her loving parents, both fervent radicals, fill her with the fiercely bright hope of a new and better world. But the deprivations of war and depression take a ruthless toll. Davita unexpectedly finds in the Jewish faith that her mother had...more
Paperback, 438 pages
Published January 12th 1986 by Fawcett Crest Books (first published 1985)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Davita's Harp, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Davita's Harp

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Skylar Burris
This is a moving, haunting, and occasionally ambiguous novel that is ultimately about the value of sacred discontent. At first it may seem as if the message is that religion is an opiate of the people, soothing them and comforting them and preventing them from confronting the naked evil of the world, but that is not the thrust of the novel. The characters in Potok's story reminded me that if religion is a crutch, it is far from the only one. Potok made me recall Herman Wouk's assertion that "spe...more
When we meet Ilana Davita she is around 8 years old, in the late 1930s. She lives in New York City with her writer-activist parents in a non-religious household. The subject for which her parents have nearly radical zeal is, we learn through Davita's listening in to conversations and nightly meetings, communism. Her parent's decisions and activism, their friends and political struggles lie at the heart of Davita's young life - they move frequently and her nights are spent in a strange dream of "...more
Un romanzo scoperto per caso, ma che mi ha permesso di leggere pagine toccanti e fiabesche nello stesso tempo. Ambientato durante il periodo della guerra civile spagnola, vi viene rappresentato, attraverso gli occhi semplici di una bambina, un mondo drammatico di guerre e persecuzioni, di odio e violenza: Davita riesce a sopportare la realtà quotidiana grazie alla fantasia e all'immaginazione, così da trasformare il racconto in un succedersi melodioso di suoni e di immagini. Ciò che ri...more
Jeremy Eisenhauer
This book I read within days after I finished Asher Lev. Chaim Potok has become somewhat of an obsession in our house hold ever since James Moes got me to read Asher Lev.
Davita's Harp had me even more hooked than Asher Lev did. At first I was wondering if the stories were going to entwine because of the setting and time, because of the age of the characters and both Davita's and Asher's similarly unique ways of thinking and speaking. Obviously Potok has found a brilliant way to portray the thou...more
It's sad to me that everyone reads THE CHOSEN in school, and not this amazing gem of a book. I barely remember THE CHOSEN, but I could rhapsodize for hours about DAVITA'S HARP. The characters are wonderful and real, and Davita's search for truth, for knowledge, and for family is heartbreaking and lovely. The daughter of two left-wing activists, Davita's sudden fascination with the Hasidic world her mother abandoned is baffling to her parents and their friends. But to a child whose life contains...more
As I write this review the REM song Losing My Religion is on the tv, which is apt as that's one of the themes of this complicated, melancholic novel. Ilana Davita is growing up in New York in the 1930s and the 1940s. Both parents, Hannah and Michael, are ardent communists. Communism has replaced the religions of their childhood - The Eastern European Hasidism of Ilana's mother, and the New England Episcopalian life of her father. Both parents are haunted by cruel childhood events, which they bel...more
This book is written in an interesting way. It's from the viewpoint of an 8 -11ish year old. So the sentence structure is simpler than Potok's other books. However, this is a very smart girl with parents who don't protect her from the horrors going on in the world, so she does have thoughts you wouldn't normally attribute to such a young girl. I thought it was a really good book, but I still kind of wish I hadn't read it. Reading how the Orthodox Jewish community in NYC during the 30s treat this...more
Oleg Kagan
Based on my previous experience with the work of Chaim Potok, I knew that Davita's Harp would involve a young person's experience with Judaism. What I didn't expect was the clash of identities invoked in a story of a seemingly, at least at first, naive pre-adolescent girl. Ilana Davita's parents were ardent irreligious Communists, her father's family were stony capitalists from New Englander (though his sister was a Christian nurse), her mother's parents were orthodox Jews. Not only that, but th...more
Biz German
The architecture of the core themes of this book was so well constructed. I guess I don't think about the authors of books very often as I'm reading them. I typically think only about the stories and the characters. But the contents of this book were so beautifully written and so masterfully unfolded that I found myself thinking often about Potok's incredible skill in writing it. I loved the three birds. I of course loved the harp. I loved Davita's trueness to herself, her searching and her cour...more
Potok's use of recurrent images borders on overt symbolism, and yet retains an internal coherence beyond that of religious iconography or surrealist leaps by having his narrators tell you exactly what the images mean. This is probably what makes Davita's Harp a childrens' book, even thought it explicitly and graphically addresses child abuse, rape, mutilation, murder, and warfare. A 'story within a story' conceit allows the close, first-person narrator to recall images that her storyteller frien...more
I really enjoy reading books written by Chaim Potok. They are not necessarily easy or entertaining, but I love his thought processess, his development of characters that I can associate with, and I am most impressed with the vast amount of knowledge he shares with his readers.
From this book I discovered many subtle things about myself and about things that I am interested in at this point in my life. One poignant lesson I learned was that there are many truths out there that seem threatening to...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Perhaps I really like coming of age stories, but this is one of my favorite books. I would never have read it, or maybe any Potok, had not someone in my book club chosen it. Interesting that many of the women give it higher reviews than the men, but as a man, I found it also touched my heart. I thought the evocation of the 30's, the Spanish Civil War, the somewhat "naive" leftist/Communist idealism of that time were all very well portrayed. The struggle to come to terms with spirituality and hyp...more
La storia di Davita è una di quelle che restano dentro. Durante la lettura a volte mi sono sentita come tradita nelle aspettative, ma ora ogni tanto mi soffermo a ripensare all'arpa eolia e ai due uccellini che vi hanno fatto il nido, alla visione del mondo di Davita e al suo modo di vivere con naturalezza e caparbietà le cose che ama. L'ho vissuto come un romanzo sincero: un pezzo di mondo narrato con garbo da una bambina, senza l'artificio di 'effetti speciali' per creare sensazionalismi inuti...more
I enjoyed this, although it is the same form as all of the other novels by Potok I have read; heavily weighted towards the child's experience, with a thread of dreams that serves as symbolism, and some art (in this case Daw's short stories) that serves as another thread of symbolism, and then the two work together and apart and together again to provide the underneath of the book. I was glad to read him writing of a woman, and interested, but I wish it had gone much further into her future, so w...more
Jun 03, 2008 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is a beautiful story of a young girl growing up in the 1930's. Davita's parents are activists in the communist party in America. The book explores some ideas on the importance of religion and history and finding what is important to you. It is also just a wonderful story of a child growing up.
Why doesn't this allow for half stars? I wanted to give it 2.5, but instead I decided to round up, and give it three. For me, this book is not even comparable to The Chosen or My Name is Asher Lev, two of his books that I love. It's not even comparable to their good but lesser sequels, The Promise and Gift of Asher Lev. For me this ranks with his most recent (and last novel) Old Men at Midnight.One thing that drove me crazy about this book was how long it took for it to go anywhere... It seemed...more
It has been several years since I read this, so it might be unfair to write a review after so many years have passed. I had heard a number of rave reviews about Potok's work by various friends, so when I found this in a used bookstore one day, I picked it up. I was intrigued with the description on the cover of a young girl returning to her Jewish roots. But I had the wrong expectations. All through the book, I was waiting for Davita's conversion or a change of heart, but I found none. All I saw...more
Alvin Steingold
Oct 01, 2012 Alvin Steingold rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in serious fiction by a great writer
Recommended to Alvin by: NY Times Book Review
I've been reading the novels of Chaim Potok for ages but one gets tired of The Chosen and My Name is Asher Lev.

After sepnding quite a bit of time on the latest volume of Caro's massive biography of LBJ I decided it was time for a little pleasure reading. I had fond memories of Potok's Davita's Harp which I first read when it was published in 1985. I located a used copy and dug in. I was not disappointed.

It is a well written rather melancholy story of a young woman growing up in the 30's. Her mot...more
Story told by a 6 year daughter of Michael & Annie. Michael who was raised Christian and left his faith due to a crime he witnessed and his wife Annie that left Judiasm. They both turned to ideals (communism) and their daughter tells the story of their passion to change the world while trying to find more about of her self. As a young girl, she very tuned into current events because of her parents and is very concerned about the world around her. She has a aunt that is a practicing Christian...more
Natalie Banta
I thought Chaim Potok could have done more with the female issues in the book. I felt like it just kind of ends with this idea that reconciling feminism and judaism is futile. My favorite thing about Potok's books is his characterization of children's relationship and love for their parents and vice-versa. Illana's relationship with her father was just beautiful. This book made me think about the importance of thinking about what takes you away from your family. Whether it is religious devotion...more
Very interesting, and lots that, due to my ignorance of Judiasm, I didn't understand.

The story begins with Ilana, the daughter of radicals supporting Communist ideals, moving from apartment to apartment because of her parents 'meetings'. This is after WWI and prior to WWII. Her dad, a former Episcopalian, is abandoned by his family, except for his sister, when he marries a Jew no longer practicing her religion who also has radical ideas. The parents are enlightened and naive at the same time....more
Read for school in one go. Wasn't bad. Wasn't mind-blowing. I felt like a huge chunk of the beginning was: my parents are hosting political meetings late at night that I can't understand. We move around a lot." Which got old. But after that, it gets better. Slowly, Ilana has been losing more and more people to Europe, to the war, and it's no wonder that she turns to religion, though not specifically a certain one until later in the book. I found most of the characters engaging except for, sad to...more
Kressel Housman
Jun 05, 2008 Kressel Housman rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: left-wing Jews considering a more traditional path
Shelves: jewish, fiction
My rating is based on my enjoyment of this novel when I read it, but it was such a very different stage in life for me, I don't know how I'd like it now. It's the story of Davita, the daughter of a left-wing and literary Jewish mother and a left-wing activist father. There's also an uncle of sorts in there, a prototype of Chaim Potok - a Yiddish writer. Besdies Davita, he was my favorite character, speaking in beautiful but undecipherable parables. In spite of her left wing background, Davita be...more
A beautiful story. It is much slower in pace than The Chosen and The Promise (which some might find hard to believe). I was reading this book over lunch for the past few weeks, usually outside in the sun on lazy afternoons, and I felt the book had the same slow, lazy feel to it. Many lines repeat, speech by the characters seem uncreative (i.e. Jackob Daw's appearances are always short and end with him saying, "I'm tired."), and nothing much seems to happen to the characters for a long time in th...more
I truly do love Chaim Potok, but this book was mostly a disappointment for me. Maybe it's because my expectations were so high, because of how much I enjoyed his other books, and because this one had gotten some high praise (as listed in the first few pages). But, I was ultimately disappointed with the last third of the book. I felt that it started out strongly, but ended in a way that I didn't really like. I guess it just went in a different direction than I thought it would. So, if you've neve...more
Lisa N
This book got off to a really slow start for me, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. It was depressing throughout and left me with a sort of bittersweet feeling. I could really empathize with Davita, and her character was touching. I could not embrace her mother Anne at all. I found her shallow and unbelievable. I found it implausible that she would return to Judaism after professing atheism and being a spokesperson for the Communist party. I also found it unlikely that Ezra Dinn would m...more
Too much male sexual thinking superimposed onto the main female character. I found it embarrassing, quite shallow in its portrayal of female sexuality, and certainly not something I would want to ever recommend to someone I cared about, much less keep it in my library. I threw it into the trash.
Adam Cherson
I rate this book a 3.46 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being best. Told from the point of view of a little girl, this book made me feel some of the same mixture of pity and impatience that little girls and their fantasy world’s can elicit in real life, a feeling of almost unbearable poignancy. What I most enjoyed in the book is its depiction of life in New York for Jews during the second World War. The political confusion, the gradual realization of holocaust horror, amidst a backdrop of typical Ci...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • As a Driven Leaf
  • The Outside World
  • Souls on Fire
  • Enemies: A Love Story
  • Het lot van de familie Meijer
  • Unchosen: The Hidden Lives of Hasidic Rebels
  • Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories
  • The Story of a Life
  • Paradise Park
  • The Jewish Study Bible
  • Wednesday the Rabbi Got Wet
  • Rashi's Daughters, Book II: Miriam: A Novel of Love and the Talmud in Medieval France
  • The Romance Reader
  • This is My God: A Guidebook to Judaism
  • The Last of the Just
  • To Be A Jew: A Guide To Jewish Observance In Contemporary Life
  • How Long Has This Been Going On?
American author and rabbi. Herman Harold Potok was born in the Bronx to Jewish immigrants from Poland.

His parents, Benjamin Max (d. 1958) and Mollie (Friedman) Potok (d. 1985), gave him a Hebrew name, Chaim Tzvi. His Orthodox education taught him Talmud as well as secular studies.

He decided to become a writer as a teenager, after reading Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.
More about Chaim Potok...
The Chosen My Name Is Asher Lev The Promise The Gift of Asher Lev In the Beginning

Share This Book

“…everything has a past. Everything – a person, an object, a word, everything. If you don’t know the past, you can’t understand the present and plan properly for the future.” 162 likes
“In our time... a man whose enemies are faceless bureaucrats almost never wins. It is our equivalent to the anger of the gods in ancient times. But those gods you must understand were far more imaginative than our tiny bureaucrats. They spoke from mountaintops not from tiny airless offices. They rode clouds. They were possessed of passion. They had voices and names. Six thousand years of civilization have brought us to this.” 6 likes
More quotes…