Perry Whitford's Reviews > The Hope

The Hope by Herman Wouk
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's review
Oct 05, 15

really liked it
Recommended for: Israeli scholars.
Read from June 03 to 05, 2012 — I own a copy , read count: 1

The Hope is an historical drama, painted in fairly broad brush-strokes, charting the days immediately following Ben Gurion's proclamation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948 after the British withdrawal, continuing up to the astonishing military successes of the Six Day War.

Gurion is himself a character - paunchy and punchy, fierce yet flawed - but the narrative centres around a trio of fictional surrogates whose collective ubiquity enables Wouk to give first hand accounts of all the ambassadorial, military and political events that allowed a million Jews to get the better of the eighty million Arabs who surrounded them on all sides.

Wolfgang Berkowitz - Hebraized to Zev Barak - is a commander in the Israeli army at the time of independence who becomes an assistant to the Israeli ambassador in America, associate to a shadowy CIA operative, and eye witness to the arguments in the UN.

Yossi Blumenhal is a young immigrant turned emergency soldier, courageous and reckless, whose headstrong daring at Latrun and El Arish typified the Israeli fighting spirit and earn him the nickname "Don Kishote" - Don Quixote.

Sam Pasternak is the experienced Mossad man and member of the inner chamber, an implacable runner and fixer for the likes of Ben Gurion, foreign minister Golda Meir, and the inspirational Israeli general, Moshe Dayan.

For all the insight into historical events that this trio of characters allow, the book is every bit as much about the loves of their lives, their affairs and the joys and regrets they experience in female company.

I liked the female characters, they were fully written and as influential as the male leads in their own way, thouugh occasionally the melodrama merely got in the way of the world changing events.

I thought Golda Meir could have been seen more often, a woman who was genuinely involved in the thick of it all, but there is a follow-up work to this tome called The Glory, which picks up the story after 1967, so she will no doubt be more centre stage there.

It's truly astonishing how the embattled, starved, under-resourced Israelis triumphed over the combined Arab army, a story I have been intrigued with ever since reading O Jerusalem by Collins & Lapierre as a teenager. I keep coming back to it.

Unlike that work, Wouk gives an entirely Israeli-centric view on the conflict, though by no means an air-brushed one. He notes how for "three millennia the Jews were exactly the same quarrelsome Israelites of the Exodus, with the same God, the same language, and the same national character, including the same ineradicable tendency to veer forever between the sublime and the balagan" (cock-up).

I don't often read mainstream historical novels like this, where the characters don't have much of an interior life and the events do most of the talking, but the consensus is that Wouk does this kind of thing very well and I love the subject matter so I gave it a go.

I enjoyed The Hope, and look forward to one day reading The Glory.
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