I continue to love this series and its characters. Nevertheless, while I enjoyed this novel, it lacked a certain something. There was a lot of set up...moreI continue to love this series and its characters. Nevertheless, while I enjoyed this novel, it lacked a certain something. There was a lot of set up and then a quick resolution. Still, Gabriel is a fascinating character and Silva's storytelling draws me in.(less)
The more of the Allon series I read, the more I like it. It is a good balance of action, behind-the-scenes spy-exploits, and character development. Al...moreThe more of the Allon series I read, the more I like it. It is a good balance of action, behind-the-scenes spy-exploits, and character development. Allon's character is fascinating, primarily with how he deals with the damage to his psyche that his job has had on him. I also like that while the book is clearly on the Israeli side of things, it doesn't shy away from telling the Palestinian side of the conflict. It doesn't cast all Arabs as evil and doesn't paint the Israelis as squeaky clean angels. It tries to capture the subtly and complexity of this ageless conflict. And yet, it doesn't descend into a kind moral relativism. The bad guys are bad and they get served justice.
Mostly, though, there is just something about the world that Silva has created in these books that calls me back to it. I get so immersed in the books, I feel something missing when I finish them.(less)
The previous two Allon novels and this one sort of form a trilogy with a focus on the Holocaust. The complicity of the Swiss and the Church are the fo...moreThe previous two Allon novels and this one sort of form a trilogy with a focus on the Holocaust. The complicity of the Swiss and the Church are the focus of the first two. This one focuses on the broader complicity of many other countries evident in the post-war world. What makes this particular novel stand out is the detailed point of view of Holocaust survivors. This is integral to the plot; it provides the motivations for many of the characters and it causes the reader to feel the need for justice to be done.
It is paced well and gripping. The accounts from the death camps are harrowing. There is not much in the way of character development here; that is, not much is added to Allon’s character. We do get more of his back story and some of what may have lead him to be the man he is. (less)
A quick, but interesting biography of Hank Greenberg--the first major Jewish baseball star. The book focuses quite a bit on the contrast of Greenberg’...moreA quick, but interesting biography of Hank Greenberg--the first major Jewish baseball star. The book focuses quite a bit on the contrast of Greenberg’s own secularism with his fame as Jewish athlete. Greenberg was a hero to Jews in America in the 30s and 40s (and beyond), not just for being a great baseball player but for sitting out a regular season game against the Yankees because it fell on Yom Kippur. This was not from a need for religious observance, but from a connection to his family and culture. For many, this is perplexing: if he wasn’t religious, why would he care about playing on Yom Kippur. A similar question arises a generation later when Sandy Koufax does the same thing. It points to the difficult and complex nature of what it means to be a Jew in America…far beyond this review and the book. Kurlansky is not out to try to solve that enigma.
Kurlansky tries to do justice the Greenberg “myth”: he is not out to debunk or discredit Greenberg, but he also wants to get the story correct. The game with the Yankees was not one that really mattered (it was a regular season game and the Tigers had all but wrapped up the pennant), and though hurt, Greenberg said he would have played on Yom Kippur the following year against the Cubs during the World Series. (One wonders what would have happened to the Greenberg narrative had he played.) Kurlansky’s point is that Greenberg was a complex guy who balanced his love of baseball and his desire to win with his commitments to his family/roots and his recognition of the role he played in the public eye as a famous Jew. It was a struggle that he dealt with his whole life, and only in his later years did he, by most accounts, become comfortable in his role as a Public Jew. Kurlansky quotes Greenberg’s unpublished autobiography: “I find myself wanting to be remembered not only as a great baseball player, but even more as a great Jewish ballplayer. I realize now, more than I used, to how important a part I played in the lives of a generation of Jewish kids…” (143).
After his playing days, Greenberg moved over to the management and ownership side of the game. He lived a full life beyond baseball. Kurlansky writes “baseball was not the goal of Greenberg’s life; it was just a tool for achieving his goal” (143). (less)
I really enjoy Silva's Allon novels: exciting, intelligent spy thrillers. They have well-drawn characters and unpredictable twists. That said, the the...moreI really enjoy Silva's Allon novels: exciting, intelligent spy thrillers. They have well-drawn characters and unpredictable twists. That said, the these twists sometimes aren't that convincing, but only in minor ways. In this novel, two of the characters have changes of heart that were a little too quick for my taste. I thought that the background drop of the collaboration of the Swiss with the Nazis during the war provided a good canvas for the plot of this story. The Gabriel Allon character is an excellent thriller protagonist: brooding, thoughtful, deadly, and honorable. (less)
The strength of Potok is the honesty and depth to his characters and their communities. In his stories of the Ladovers there is beauty and love, anger...moreThe strength of Potok is the honesty and depth to his characters and their communities. In his stories of the Ladovers there is beauty and love, anger and disappointment, hope and despair. One feels like they have truly stepped into this world of the Hasid, which for me is at once alien and familiar. In some ways, I feel like Asher: I am connected to this world, but not part of it. Asher of course is a part of the Hasidic world, buy he is in a kind of exile within it. Asher's duality here allows us into this insular world without invading it.
I know little of Potok's personal life and biography. I do not know how much of him is in Asher Lev, but it feels like a lot. Obviously, one sees the tension about religion and art that Potok may have lived himself. I wonder as well, how much of Asher's struggle with creating new art without repeating himself echoes the author's own similar struggles?
I liked this book, but it is not My Name is Asher Lev or The Chosen. It is good, but not like those works. They are on another level, true classics. The Gift is too melancholy, too meandering, too derivative to be truly great.
There is all together too much moping about and waiting. The ending is ambiguous (which in the context of the story makes some sense) and unsatisfying. The story builds and builds and then just ends. Most of all, I do not think this sequel gave me any deeper insights into the first book. It is, in some ways, like an extend epilogue. It was pleasant to revisit and see how things have turned out, but doesn't really add anything new.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is like Jewish Spenser meets Sherlock Holmes. The mystery is well-crafted, with many unexpected twists. The writin...moreI thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is like Jewish Spenser meets Sherlock Holmes. The mystery is well-crafted, with many unexpected twists. The writing captures the language of the period without being overbearing or opaque.
Weaver is an interesting character. A Jewish Londoner in the 18th century, he is a former boxer turned thief-catcher. That alone intrigued me enough to pick up the book. The look into the Jewish community in London at this time was well-done. It doesn't dominate the story but there is just enough to capture the mix of the growing comfort with life in England and the precariousness of their position in English society. I am curious how much Liss plays with this in the subsequent Weaver novels.
My criticisms are that some of the characterization of London's underworld, corrupt courts, and stock-exchange are a bit overdrawn. This works in the story, but is probably oversimplified from a historical perspective. But this is only a small quibble.
Overall, I liked the book and it certainly deepened my interest in and knowledge of Koufax. The chapter on Koufax and his Jewish identity was, to no o...moreOverall, I liked the book and it certainly deepened my interest in and knowledge of Koufax. The chapter on Koufax and his Jewish identity was, to no one's surprise, the most interesting of the book. The chapter that covers the last inning of his perfect game was thrilling. I think Leavy did a good job of showing us Koufax's character. Clearly not an easy guy to get a read on, but she gets him into the book without it devolving to an 'as-told-to' or a 'tell-all'. Nevertheless, I didn't care for Leavy's narrative structure. It jumped around a lot, back to Koufax's early days with the Dodgers, to present day, and to the 60s. She switched from one person's testimony to another so much, I often found myself turning back a few pages to figure who was who. (less)
A thorough and moving account of The Bielski Brothers. I cried at several points: out of anger, fear, sadness; at the incomprehensible evil. But also...moreA thorough and moving account of The Bielski Brothers. I cried at several points: out of anger, fear, sadness; at the incomprehensible evil. But also I cried out of gratitude: the integrity, generosity, and strength it took to fight the battles the Bielski's and those with them fought. There is no greater tribute to these men then to know that thousands of people are living their lives right now because of the Bielski's did.(less)
An absolutely fantastic book, a must read for anyone interested in Israel and the Middle East. Deeply researched and splendidly written, Oren provides...moreAn absolutely fantastic book, a must read for anyone interested in Israel and the Middle East. Deeply researched and splendidly written, Oren provides a gripping and powerful account of the causes and events of the 67 War.(less)