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Suddenly, Love

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  318 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
A poignant, heartbreaking new work -- the story of a lonely older man and his devoted young caretaker who transform each other's lives in ways they could never have imagined.

Ernst is a gruff seventy-year-old Red Army veteran from Ukraine who landed, almost by accident, in Israel after World War II. A retired investment advisor, he lives alone (his first wife and baby daugh
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 6th 2014 by Schocken (first published 2003)
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Diane S ☔
Jan 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
I love this book cover, it exemplifies the story so well. This is a quiet and introspective book featuring two people that are so different. Ernst, who disclaimed his Jewish roots when he was young, was a veteran of the Red Army in the Ukraine. He was a communist who persecuted the Jews. Now at the age of seventy, in failing health, he is trying to write his memoirs, finding a way to come terms with his past behavior and beliefs. Seeking forgiveness from his now dead parents.

Irena is 36, her par
Jim Leffert
Mar 14, 2015 rated it liked it
Ernst is a 70-year old Jewish man, a refugee from Europe, living in Israel several decades after World War II. Back in the 1930’s in Romania, he was a strident young communist who had rejected his family and his heritage. As part of the revolutionary vanguard, he and his young comrades torched “bourgeois” businesses owned by local Jews. During the war he fought with distinction and bravery as an officer in the Red Army. Young Ernst’s wife and child parents perished in the war, as did his parents ...more
Sep 14, 2001 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, 2014
As I read this story I felt as if I was trespassing, a voyeur witnessing two souls find an accidental love. Their love is unspoken but understood, a silent intruder without premeditation. Every gesture is noted and understood, no interpretation required. Two people so dissimilar but so much a like. Their love is pure, genuine - it has no boundaries only to envelop the other in a positive way. A deep friendship set on fire, giving comfort, easing pain. Completely accepting of each other, uncondit ...more
Anne Slater
Jul 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
After I've read it again I might give it a 5th star.

I tried a previous book by Apelfeld and couldn't get into it. This I read in one sitting.

It is such a sympathetic laying out of the two characters-- a 36 year old maiden lady and the 70 something scholar for whom she keeps house. Their secrets are never revealed-- it would have been quite a different book if they had been-- but their actual escapades are not the subject of the story.

This book is about Irena and Ernst's failed connections with t
Mar 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
As a Gerontologist, I really wanted to love this book. I respect the historical fiction woven into the storyline. I did not like the characters of the book. The female lead had no substance and her love was more of subservience to Ernst than it was a real boundary breaking love I was expecting. Highly disappointed. Very hard to finish this book.
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-general
Ernst is an old man who needed a housekeeper and a nursemaid. Irena is a simple-minded woman in her 30s, with few thoughts of her own that did not come from her parents. Ernst needs Irena to take care of him, and Irena needs someone to take care of, which ends up being Ernst. That's the least complicated way to view this book.

It's not that simple, however. Ernst wasn't looking for a nursemaid at first; he just ended up needing one. And Irena spent most of her time before Ernst staying in her hom
Jun 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Beautifully written story of a young woman and an older man who find love with each other. It is not the torrid passion of youth but sweet, lovely and really sneaks up on them. Some stories of this nature would have a "cute" factor. This does not. I especially enjoyed the historical component of this book.
Is it historical fiction? Is it a love story? Hard to categorize.

I would definitely read another book by Mr. Appelfeld.
Lynn Pribus
Actually, there was nothing sudden about this. It was a long listen with two likeable characters -- an older man (in his 70s, I think) dying of cancer and his younger caretaker at least 20 years his junior. He is writing his memoirs, she takes care of him more and more and it's not the least surprising--to me at least--that they would develop a loving relationship.

But my iPod just kept going and going and going and I was ready for the book to end quite a while before it did.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it liked it
I feel like this book is not quite finished and a bit uneven. Like Ernst, the author is struggling to knit together his writing. If that is the point, I guess I disapprove.

The last third of the book was five star material. Where on one hand, Irena's character was flat, more a device than a person, the frame story of Ernst's youth that dominates the last part of the book is painfully good.
Shankia Monique Tinsley
I wasn't a fan of the way the story was told or the repetitiveness therein but it was what you might call a gentle love story, and those are my favorite to read because the characters come together naturally.
Jun 06, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kao uravnoteženo i odmjereno poput ljubavi u poznim godinama, ali zapravo poprilično dosadnjikavo.
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“The purpose of writing is to rescue things from oblivion” ...”The truth has to be cloaked in the right words. Otherwise it will sound counterfeit or, worse than that, pretentious or hypocritical”
Nov 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, arc
This is the story of an older man, Ernst, and his young, simple, devoted caretaker, Irena, who helps him reconnect and make peace with his past. In all honesty, I hated--HATED--this book when I first started it. Both characters are incredibly extreme--Ernst in his ridiculously rigid way of viewing the world, and Irena in her total and complete submission to the task of caring for Ernst. Seriously, I almost put the book down after reading the nth description of Ernst expressing vehement disapprov ...more
David Kinchen
May 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
BOOK REVIEW: 'Suddenly, Love': Love Really Does Conquer All


Amor Vincit Omnia: Shortly before the start of the first millennium, the Roman poet Virgil (70 B.C.- 19 B.C. most famous as the author of the "Aeneid" ) wrote "love conquers all things; let us too surrender to Love."

* * *

Ernst, the let's- get-down-to-brass-tacks, just the facts protagonist of Aharon Appelfeld's "Suddenly, Love" (Schocken Books, a division of Random House, translated from the Hebrew by Jeffre
Roger Brunyate
Jul 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: israel
Returning Home

The concept is simple, even beautiful. An ailing man, aged seventy, engages a housekeeper half his age to look after him while he maintains his daily ritual of going to the cafe in the morning, walking in the afternoon, and writing pages and pages that he later disavows. It is Jerusalem in the 1980s. Irena, the housekeeper, has been housebound since the death of her parents, maintaining their apartment exactly as they left it, and communing from time to time with their ghosts; this
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2014
Excerpt from my full review at

Everything about this book spoke to me when I picked it up in Barnes & Noble last week. The dust cover, saturated with color. The title, endearing me to the protagonists. The premise, that of an elderly man and his young female companion, both faced with the burden of their pasts and the legacy they carry from previous generations.

When we meet him, Ernst Blumenfeld is a 70-year-old man on the precipice of his death. He suffers thr
Jan 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
A poignant, heartbreaking new work -- the story of a lonely older man and his devoted young caretaker who transform each other's lives in ways they could never have imagined.

Ernst is a gruff seventy-year-old Red Army veteran from Ukraine who landed, almost by accident, in Israel after World War II. A retired investment advisor, he lives alone (his first wife and baby daughter were killed by the Nazis; he divorced his shrewish second wife several years ago) and spends his time laboring over his u
Read my full review in New York Journal of Books. For a shorter synopsis of the novel see an article that appeared in a different and now defunct publication and begins with the next paragraph.

Jewish books: Suddenly, Love: Aharon Appelfeld's tale of emotional healing

Suddenly, Love, Israeli novelist Aharon Appelfeld’s twentieth book to appear in an English translation was published yesterday by Schocken Books, a division of New York publisher Random House. In Appelfeld’s fiction the Shoah casts a
Jennifer S. Brown
Sep 11, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'd actually give this a 3 1/2 stars, but I'm inclined to round up here. This short novel of Ernst, a 70-something year old man being cared for by Irena, a thirty-something woman. They live in Israel, but Ernst was born in Ukraine and Irena in a displaced persons camp after the war. The novel is just about them: others appear through Ernst's writing (and, yes, a doctor or two show up), but the book is claustrophobic, concentrating so wholly on them.

Through Ernst's writing we see him as a young m
Cititor înrăit sau nu, probabil că aproape în fiecare carte de ficţiune ai întâlnit o poveste de dragoste. Şi, totuşi, e o temă care poate fi abordată inedit de fiecare dată, aşa că până şi în astăzi poţi citi un roman care să te surprindă cu acest subiect vechi de când lumea. La fel, e aproape imposibil să nu-ţi fi trecut prin mână o carte despre Holocaust, dar chiar şi acum se pare că e un subiect care conţine teritorii ce merită explorate. Dacă abordezi inedit ambele subiecte, în aceeaşi cart ...more
Aug 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Thankfully I do not base all my reading choices based on titles or I would never have picked up Suddenly, Love by Aharon Appelfeld, and I would have missed out on a masterfully told story unconditional love. The story takes place in Israel where the reader meets Ernst, a 70-year-old Red Army veteran from Ukraine, and thirty-six year old Irena, the daughter of Holocaust survivors. Irena has been caring for Ernst and his home for two years and finds is intellect fascinating, yet the two are so ver ...more
Feb 09, 2015 rated it it was ok
"Irena does everything she can to make things pleasant for Ernst: she wears makeup; she makes sure that her clothes will catch his eye each morning. Ernst's vision is sharp, and he notices the details."

Ernst is an over 70 year old and Irena is only 35. She keeps house for him and caters to his needs and tries to calm his emotions. Whether he is angry, depressed, sullen or occasionally joyful, Irena finds all of Ernst's moods beautiful.

Half way through the book I begin to think about skimming; th
Oct 19, 2014 rated it liked it
I admire how this author uses the story within the story to explain how the character has arrived at this point. And I just wish Irena had a bit more depth. I get that she is a simple woman, but it can be exhausting to read how much she lives for others - first her parents and then Ernst - all the while berating herself for being less than those around her. That said, the book is beautiful in its streamlined style. A window into a co-dependent relationship. It takes a great deal of still to adva ...more
Jul 26, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hebrew
Is it me? Was this a crummy book, or was it just that I was reading it in Hebrew? I can't describe how boring it was. I must have missed the point, somehow. Middle-aged spinster works as caretaker for terminally ill old man, sees him through illness and bouts of depression as he attempts to write his memoirs, they gradually fall in love. All 176 pages of that in Hebrew. Verbose, repetitive, BORING. I'm embarrassed to tell this to my Hebrew book club, of course, because I'm sure they'll reveal ho ...more
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. I read it for a book group. I enjoyed this book more than his other books. It is set in Jerusalem in modern times. I liked it because it had a more personal feel than his other books. It is the story of an elderly man and his housekeeper. The man has had his memories of his past lives in Europe locked inside of him. Through his relationship with Irena, his housekeeper he is able to unlock the secret parts of his past and his identity and strangely find love at the end ...more
"Iréna sait qu'Ernest n'aime pas les consolations vaines, les mots décoratifs, ou les mots en l'air. Un jour il lui a dit ceci, qu'elle n'oubliera jamais : "Les mots qui ne sont pas reliés à une souffrance ne sont pas des mots, mais de la paille. Toutes ces années je suis allé vers des lieux auquels je n'appartenais pas, vers des mots qui n'étaient pas nés en moi." Que signifie "des mots qui ne sont pas nés en moi " ? voulut-elle demander. Ernest devina ses pensées et dit : "Des mots qui ne sont ...more
Sep 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I loved how the storyline wove from Israel to the Carpathian Mountains in the Ukraine. A grumpy author living in Israel, Ernst has spent the past 20 year attempting to write books unsuccessfully. He had avoided looking back at his life living in the Carpathian Mountains especially with his grandparents who were religious jews. After becoming ill, a caretaker a lovely gentle woman Irena affects his life and suddenly he is writing something that is pouring out of his heart. The ...more
Mar 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Am inceput cartea din dorinta de a afla mai multe despre literatura si cultura din spatiul evreiesc, insa aceasta carte m-a impresionat prin simplitatea si prin modul in care reintoarcerea la valorile de baza poate schimba orice om. Trecerea de la ateism la o posibila apropiere spirituala, dragostea neimpartasita, insa puternica si cultul pentru pretuirea stramosilor fac din aceasta opera un simbol aparte al literaturii contemporane
Aug 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
Quiet tale of a 70 year old gruff Israeli man who is taken care of by a pious woman,Irena, in her mid 30's after his surgery 2 years ago. He grovels in despair over his unpublished books while Irena tenderly ministrates to his daily needs. Slowly he realizes he is falling in love with her and she returns his love. This book did not really resonate with me as I did not feel the power and struggle of the characters to the depth in which it was intended.
Koen Maegherman
Mar 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An intimate story about an old man, Ernst, who wants to write and who gets seriously ill! Irene helps him in the household but even more in him finding the way, by writing, to his early days in the Carpathian, his family and his regrettable choices as a young man! More than a book about love, it is a book about family ties, about finding peace with one self as death approaches and how other can help you in that!
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AHARON APPELFELD is the author of more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction, including Until the Dawn's Light and The Iron Tracks (both winners of the National Jewish Book Award) and The Story of a Life (winner of the Prix Médicis Étranger). Other honors he has received include the Giovanni Bocaccio Literary Prize, the Nelly Sachs Prize, the Israel Prize, the Bialik Prize, the Independent Fo ...more
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