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Davita's Harp

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  5,553 ratings  ·  376 reviews
For Davita Chandal, growing up in the New York of the 1930s and '40s is an experience of joy and sadness. Her loving parents, both fervent radicals, fill her with the fiercely bright hope of a new and better world. But as the deprivations of war and depression take a ruthless toll, Davita unexpectedly turns to the Jewish faith that her mother had long ago abandoned, findin ...more
Paperback, 371 pages
Published August 27th 1996 by Ballantine Books (first published 1985)
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Kathy No. I would say the same thing about Chaim Potok's other books, which I have read for many years. You will learn a lot about the Jewish faith and cult…moreNo. I would say the same thing about Chaim Potok's other books, which I have read for many years. You will learn a lot about the Jewish faith and culture from his books, but I was raised Christian and it certainly not a requirement to be of the Jewish faith to appreciate his beautiful stores and writing.(less)

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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  5,553 ratings  ·  376 reviews

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Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
There Are No Words

Good fiction adapts to circumstances as it ages. What was immediately on the mind of the author and the details of his experiences are important beyond the times in which or about which they were written. I suppose this is of working definition of what’s meant by a ‘classic.’ In this sense at least I think Davita’s Harp qualifies as just that, a classic.

Potok’s book was written in 1985 but its setting is the late 1930’s. This is an era of severe political division and aggressio
Skylar Burris
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: judaism
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
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Corinne Edwards
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
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jeremy Eisenhauer
Apr 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Biz German
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Kressel Housman
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Addela Bransford
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I wish I was still in school so I could have an excuse to write a 20-page essay about this book.

I love Chaim Potok's novels in part because they're so universal despite their specific subject matter. Potok writes about the Jewish community—about the struggles young Jewish people face as they come of age and find their place in society. But his larger themes resonate. Whether or not a reader is religious, they should be able to find something they relate to in Potok's books. His stories, after al
Nov 16, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: jewish-interest
I think I rated the other Chaim Potok books 5 stars, but this one did not engage me quite so much. It was different from the others in that the protagonist was female and only around 9 years old. It developed into a coming of age story. Davita's first person narrative was a little choppy; I assume the author created simplistic sentences and dialog in keeping with her age. She often relayed adult conversation and then remarked "I didn't understand."

But the themes Potok explores are anything but
May 07, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Dear black bird,

Though the quantity of your contribution to ‘Davita’s Harp’ is about as small as you are, you – and your creator the fantastic Jakob Dew - taught me and Ilana Davita a memorable lesson. That you should not close your eyes, no matter how worrisome the world is. This lesson is still so valuable to me today, because I always try to look away whenever something bad happens.

Thank you, black bird, for being such a brave bird in your quest to find the good music, instead of the sounds
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a beautifully written story. Normally I wouldn’t have time for girls coming of age tales written by men but this has a sensitivity that makes it bearable. It takes place in a community and a time that is fraught with conflict. All beliefs are challenged and ultimately proven flawed. Who can argue with that?
Oct 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
Nov 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii, fiction, usa, jewish
Ilana Davita Chandal, the daughter of a nonbelieving Jewish mother and nonbelieving Christian father grows up in New York in the years before (and during) WWII. Both of her parents are active radicals. Her life is changed when her reporter father goes to Spain to write on the Civil War there. As she asks questions and searches for what to believe, she turns to the Jewish faith. The title comes from a wooden harp which hangs on the door everywhere they live. The harp sings whenever the door is o ...more
Sally Hirschwek
Sep 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was amazing! It captured this incredible mind of young, remarkable girl living in the mid nineteen hundreds Davita Chandal. It captured her struggle to accept the world and it's injustices. The world she came to realize, was not a fair place sometimes. She learned you can not deny it, or pretend it doesn't exist. You must do what you can to seek the bad in the world. It has to be clear to you though, that you can not solve all of the worlds problems. They will never be fully ...more
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Chaim Potok’s coming of age novels about Jewish young people are so insightful, intriguing and at times terrifying. Davita’s Harp takes this to a new level as he explores pre-WWII life in NYC and a brilliant young girl as she observes her parent’s efforts to fight fascism through communism. While I usually balk at a man writing from the perspective of a woman, Potok does accomplish this well. He holds so closely to the limited viewpoint of a child as she tries to understand what is happening to ...more
May 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-group
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
Adam Lauver
Feb 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Books I'm Not Reading
I enjoyed most of this book, with the exception of a few distasteful scenes, and those scenes pulled my rating of the book down. That and the fact that character ages so infrequently! She's 9 for FOREVER! I think some of the ideas he was wrestling with were too complicated for a 9-year-old or she was the brightest 9-year-old ever. Still, I have heard too many good things about this author, so I will try another novel in the future.
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The author's nuanced ability to get into the mind of an adolescent girl struggling with reconciling her parent's communist views with the Judaism of her community is amazing. The struggles she goes through are so poignant and well written.
Jun 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
He wasn't ready to write from a female perspective, which really hurt the book.
Jul 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
How influential are your beloved relatives and religion on the shaping of your character, soul and path in your life!
Jan 15, 2011 rated it liked it
His books are very serious and I normally don't like this kind of book but his writing pulls you in and you want to learn about Davita. Older teen read
Carol Spears
One of my favorite re-reads.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Chaim Potok is a great artist who paints with words. This story touched me deeply.
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish-related
Chaim Potok’s books are so engulfing: they suck me into a world that is both familiar and foreign; a world that appears both enchanting and soul-crushing. Davita’s Harp, though different than many of Potok’s other novels, nonetheless shares these features. One major difference is that the protagonist is a young girl: Ilana Davita. The second is the way the story is told. It is much more like a memoir. It starts with some of Ilana’s earliest memories as her world starts to take shape. It has a co ...more
Olivia Martin
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Herman Harold Potok, or Chaim Tzvi, was born in Buffalo, New York, to Polish immigrants. He received an Orthodox Jewish education. After reading Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited as a teenager, he decided to become a writer. He started writing fiction at the age of 16. At age 17 he made his first submission to the magazine The Atlantic Monthly. Although it wasn't published, he received a n ...more

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