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Davita's Harp

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  4,789 Ratings  ·  299 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)
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Skylar Burris
Jun 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Jun 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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: fiction, jewish
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
Jan 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oleg Kagan
Jun 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: judaism, new-york
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
Un libro di una bellezza incredibile, raccontato in prima persona da Ilana Davita, una ragazzina di otto anni, che parla di politica, di famiglia, di solitudine, del cosa vuol dire crescere, del cosa vuol dire essere una ragazza, in un'America della fine degli anni trenta. Il tutto con il sottofondo musicale di un'arpa eolica. I pensieri sono semplici e lineari come solo i bambini sono capaci di fare.
Ma Ilana, è una bambina speciale è intelligente, è arguta, è curiosa, con una sensibilità fuori
Nov 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, usa, jewish, wwii
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Biz German
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 07, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xxxbc
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
Jun 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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.
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Carol Spears
One of my favorite re-reads.
Marina Van
Aug 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Een prachtig boek. Fictie en realiteit zijn mooi met elkaar verweven. De plaats van de vrouw in het jodendom wordt kritisch bekeken. Een boek met inhoud, het lezen waard!
Karel Alleene
Jul 14, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fictie
This feels more like a young-adult novel. The characters feel like schedules: you have aunt Sarah representing the spiritual/christian-side, there are the parents who are typical communists and there is Jakob who is the kind of writer that speaks sentences like 'writers' typically do in cartoons or young-adult novels. Almost every sentence in 'Davita's harp' feels like it's a textbook novel-sentence. In other words: this novel contains lots of flat, dull writing and dialogues which seem to go on ...more
Andy Zell
Nov 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potok is another beautiful and moving novel by this author. Like the others I’ve read, it’s a coming of age story about a young, smart, Jewish kid; unlike the others I’ve read, this one is about a girl, and that makes all the difference. Davita’s Harp is the only one of Potok’s novels with a female protagonist. Davita herself tells the story of her childhood, growing up in New York City during the Great Depression. Her mother is a Jewish immigrant, but not religiously obse ...more
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
As always, I love Potok's writing. Everything is described in a way that plays in front of your eyes like a movie. So much is said between the lines, so much is felt between the events that play out. Potok clearly uses alot of symbolism in this book (the bird, the harp etc.) but it never feels contrived since these symbols are real in Ilana Davita's imagination. They are a vessel for her to experience her thoughts and feelings about events she has no control over. I tell you, he has a way with w ...more
Aug 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
De ouders van Davita komen uit verschillende millieus (het joodse en het christelijke), maar vinden elkaar in een gezamelijke toewijding aan het communisme. Davita, een gevoelig en intelligent kind, moet voor zichzelf gaan uitmaken wat ze wel en niet wil geloven.In de jaren vlak voor de Tweede Wereldoorlog raakt ze ingewijd in de orthodoxe joodse leer, maar voelt zich daar als jonge vrouw niet geaccepteerd. Ondanks alle angst en pijn slaagt Davita erin iets met zich mee te dragen dat haar innerl ...more
Alvin Steingold
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jan 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, jewish
Potok is definitely one of my favorite authors. I love being drawn into the communities he creates, his leisurely pace that still somehow makes me want to devour the book, and his exploration about how faith and family relationships both clash with and enhance the world we live in.

The two big ideas that drew me in to this book were "sacred discontent," and what we gain and lose by devoting ourselves to an ideology (whether religious or political). The world can be a truly brutal place, and devo
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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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“…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.” 213 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.” 7 likes
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