Chrissie's Reviews > A Tale of Love and Darkness

A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz
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really liked it
bookshelves: history, israel, kirkus, bio, text-checked

OK, the book is completed and I am having difficulty choosing between 4 or 5 stars, so I guess I will choose 4. It is best to save 5 stars for those books that you are sure must get 5! Otherwise 5 stars doesn't mean much! There is a lot to think about in this book. That is why I like the book. It seems to me a very Jewish trait to analyze, discuss and argue about everything. I like that. Nevertheless in this family there were some things that were NEVER discussed. Issues that should have been discussed, but they were just so painful nothing could be said! After his mother died, Amos and his father NEVER discussed the mother/wife. Not a word! So that which really must be discussed couldn't be discussed. All I can say is hmmm. Really not that surprising if one thinks of it. The deep emotions that tied the family members, the mother, father and son were wonderfully depicted, in an honest and sometimes brutal but also loving manner. I appreciated the honesty. That is why I liked the book. What else did I like? I liked how the people were real people. They did really stupid , crazy stuff. Lectures given in locked bathrooms. Grandmothers lecturing grandfathers to "grow-up", behave as an adult should and not set a bad example for the children. Usually it was the adults who were so childish - but isn't that true to life? Who says grown-ups follow the rules, act properly or set a proper example. The characters where in other words true to life. I think! Aren't we all just fumbling along. And any given person is both wonderful and terrible. Again a characteristic true to life. I would say that the book is primarily about relationships within a family, OK this family but probably many others too. Please check out the comments noted as I progressed through the book. I liked this book/author so much that I think I will immediately try another by the author, a novel entitled Panther in the Basement. I want to see if a novel holds up as well as this memoir.

On page 167 of the Harvest publication of this book: The binding and quality of this paperback is really MUCH better than the Vintage Book I was previously reading! Immediately I realize what marvelous company I am keeping with the individuals in this family. Take this quote on page 162: "Do you know what the main thing is - the thing a woman should look for in her man? She should look for a quality that's not at all exciting but that's rarer than gold: decency. And maybe kindness too. Today, you should know this, I rate decency more highly than kindness. Decency is the bread, kindness is the butter. Or the honey." I have personally always valued kindness, put it up there on a pedestal, but I love the analogy of decency and kindness compared to bread and butter/honey. It says it all! other lines are terribly amusing - "Once, it may have been in the winter, at Hanukkah, we had a huge argument that lasted off and on for several weeks, about heredity versus free will. I remember as if it were yesterday how your mother came out with this strange sentence, that if you open up someone's head, and take out the brains, you see at once that our brains are nothing but cauliflower. Even Chopin or Shakespeare: their brains were nothing but cauliflower." And then his Mom, the same person, also expressed the idea that: ..."heredity and the environment that nurtures us and our social class - these are all like cards that are dealt out at random before the game begins. There is no freedom about this: the world gives and you just take what you're given, with no opportunity to choose. But she wrote to me from Prague, the suestion is what each person does with the cards that are dealt out to him. Some people play brilliantly with poor cards, and other do the opposite: they squander and loose everything even with excellent cards." This Jewish family, with roots in Russia, their arguments, philosophical meanderings, goals and idiosyncrasies make a delightful read.


The On page 110: There are gems of truth to be found in this book. I think many women will agree with the following observation:

"What was the secret of Grandpa's charm? I only began to understand years later. He possessed a quality that is hardly ever found among men, a marvellous quality which for many women is the sexiest in a man: He listened. He did not just politely pretend to listen, while....." Some men really listen and some men look in the eyes of a woman. The point is, women like it when the man, in some way really connects. Really cares enough to pay attention. We like this! Right?!

Still only on page 22, but I know this will be another book and author to love. It is all in the writing - that is why I always try and read a bit of a book before I buy it. The problem is that the authors know that too and can provide us with only the best in the first few pages.

"The one thing we had plenty of was books.....When I was little my ambition was to grow up to be a book. Not a writer. People can be killed like ants. Writers are not hard to kill either. But not books; however systematically you try to destroy them there is always a chance that a copy will survive and continue to enjoy a shelf-life in some corner of an out-of-the-way library somewhere, in Reykjavik, Valladolid or Vancouver." I enjoy the expression of how a book "enjoys a shelf-life". I enjoy the random choice of cities where the book just might be found. I enjoy the serious aspect of a child of six realizing how quickly a human can be wiped off the face of the earth juxtaposed to the humor inherent in the words.


I love how it is so embedded in Jewish culture to discusses ANY topic from all sides.

"Here was another typical dilemma: should on or should one not send flowers for a birthday? And if so what flowers? Gladioli were very expensive, but they were cultured, aristocratic, sensitive flowers, not some sort of half-wild...." I find this terribly amusing but to see the real humor you have to read more!




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Reading Progress

November 30, 2008 – Shelved
November 30, 2008 – Shelved as: history
November 30, 2008 – Shelved as: israel
November 30, 2008 – Shelved as: kirkus
November 30, 2008 – Shelved as: bio
November 30, 2008 – Shelved as: text-checked
August 5, 2009 –
page 22
3.93% "I know right now I will love this book. It is the writing - how Amos expresses himself. I love how Jews can discuss a topic endlessly."
August 6, 2009 –
page 86
15.36% "Still enjoying! It helps to be curious about and enjoy learning about Jewish litterature and culture."
August 7, 2009 –
page 158
28.21% "And the paperback fell apart! Grrrr! Returned book. I am sick of poorly made books!!!!"
August 8, 2009 –
page 158
28.21% "Well, I have ordered a Harvest Books paperback and I do not know what page I will have read through in this edition! Pls - good glue!"
September 1, 2009 –
page 167
29.82% "I jumped right back in and its wonderful. Notes as I go along are added on to my review."
September 3, 2009 –
page 181
32.32% "Tired of myself for quoting so much; it is just that there is no way I can express any of it so well. The telling is NOT linear. Thoughts..."
September 3, 2009 –
page 186
33.21% "Fania, who never yelled, yelled: "the picture turned real life into some kind of Swiss chocolate box scene." Another quote!"
September 4, 2009 –
page 206
36.79% "Nonnie,the carp swimming in his bathtub among kitchen utensils serving as underwater defenses of Pearl Harbor, ended up on a dinner platter."
September 5, 2009 –
page 275
49.11% "Does Amos REALLY remember these thing about his mother? The fixation is strange. His contact with his father is much more realistic."
September 7, 2009 –
page 342
61.07% "This book makes one see and feel the deep animosity betw the Jews and Palestinians in Israel. You emotionally understand both sides."
September 8, 2009 –
page 387
69.11% "Israel came into being. No one agreed, even among the Jews. Again Jews debated and disagreed about everything. Even BenGurion was mistrusted"
September 8, 2009 –
page 411
73.39% ""Almost everything your ears hear at night can be interpreted in more than one way. In fact not only at night and not only your ears.""
Started Reading
September 9, 2009 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)

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message 1: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan I love how it is so embedded in Jewish culture to discusses ANY topic from all sides.

Chrissie, Me too! It's my favorite part of Judaism.


Chrissie I adore this trait! I do it with everything. In fact I do it too much. Think of the Talmud - the Jewish religion has this whole book just to discuss all the possibilities of different questions.


message 3: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan Yeah, one of my friend's sons, at his bar mitzvah, using his entire speech time arguing what that week's "lesson" said. I loved it!!!


message 4: by Lori (new)

Lori I'm very proud to have been raised Jewish because of this very thing. It's always astounded me when I hear of Christians saying it's not their place to even ask questions or wonder why.


message 5: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan From the 2 orthodox Jews I know, I don't think this wonderful habit extends to orthodox Judaism, but for conservative, reform, reconstructionist, secular, and maybe renewal, it does. Lori, I'm Jewish although I wasn't raised in any religion, but I was always allowed to question. Then, there are some of the more liberal Christian religions that I think are encouraged/allowed to question (to some extent) too.


Chrissie Lisa, I don't know all Jewish groups believe in the Tzlmud and that is an analysis of how to interpret the Jewish text. So they all discuss and discuss and discuss. I have a very strange background - my great grandfather on my father's side was a Jewish rabbi from Kiev. OK, they emigrated to the US in the beginning of the 1900s, but he was a lousy person and his wife died and he left zll the kids zand returned to Russia. The kids remained and were raised in the lower east side of NY by the oldest daughter. All of the kids grew up hating their Jewish background, my father of the next generation hated his background and did all he could to deny it. Then he marries my episcopal mother who loved studying all religions and she decided she wanted to be Jewish. He thought this was the worst thing imaginable. Well, my Mom took us to Jewish classes for azbout a year and then it all fizzled out. During that year I learned some Hebrew and about the sabbath and holiday customs. But my Mom then moved on to other ideas..... I was about 10ish I think. At least I have been inside a synigogue, but never a Christian religious service. I LIKE the debate so central to the religion. I like the customs. I like the whole idea of the value of being a mensch! What have I gotten out of all of it - the love of philosophical discussion and a belief of the importance of kindness. So much badness has been done in the name of religion. Let's just keep it all simple and believe in kindness.


message 7: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan Chrissie, Wow, you do have an interesting background. I suspect you know more about Judaism than me. I agree with you 100% re the mensch/kindness aspects. I'm not religious at all but those are the parts of religion I respect and like.


message 8: by Chrissie (last edited Sep 02, 2009 11:03PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chrissie Yeah, but everybody has strange backgrounds it is just that we do not know it. I highly recommend House by the Dvina: A Russian Childhood by Eugenie Fraser, BTW! It was fabulous.


message 9: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan Yeah, but everybody has strange backgrounds it is just that we do not know it.

Oh, That is absolutely true!! I do, and I know very, very few "boring" or "normal" people.

Yes, I saw your recommendation. I just added the book. Thank you so much. I think I'd seen that you were reading it but I was waiting to see what you thought.


Chrissie It is a MUST read, but not for the last 7 pages.


message 11: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Vegan I saw your other message too. Even if those last pages are depressing I'd think they were important to read. I'm out now. Will read your full review layer, or after I read the book. Only will wait if think I'll read the book soon and I probably won't have time for that.


Bibliophile heh! I just recommended this to you and I see we rated it the same, so ignore my last comment. It's a great book; I think Amos Oz is a fantastic writer (and I am very sympathetic to his political stance as well.) Just a little tidbit - he is good friends with Sari Nusseibeh, a Palestinian professor and scion of a famous Jerusalem family, whose work Once Upon a Country I also recommended to you.


Chrissie I will ceck that out too! You MUST check out View from the Eye of the Storm: Terror and Reason in the Middle East. Doesn't it look interesting?!


Bibliophile Yes, it does! I just added it to the "to read" pile (which numbers over 1,000 now. Yikes!)


Chrissie Bibliophile, what I do to manage my Mt TBR is I have three "must" shelves, books that cannot be ignored either biography, non-fiction or fiction. I buy from my must shelves. As you raead reviews you can move books to and from the must shelves. I also have a maybe shelf which has less priority than the TBR shelf. I have another shelf for books that appear interesting but but further study has shown me I should not read them. 5 years ago I couldn't find good books..... I have just begun The French Blue. Wonderful so far!


Chrissie I wonder how the book will affect you, Chelsea?!


message 17: by Barbara (new) - added it

Barbara Chrissie, I enjoyed reading your review. Some of your descriptions remind me of my own Jewish family!


Chrissie Barbara, I was recommending several book about Israel and saw that there were spelling errors so I had to fix them. I read it quite a while ago. It is my favorite by the author.

I am not Jewish, but my paternal great grandfather was a rabbi back in the Kiev area. Or so I have been told. My Mom was interested in Judaism, so for a while we went to the synagogue and celebrated Jewish holidays and I tried to learn Hebrew. My grandmother made great Jewish food. These are dear memories to me. I love how it lies in the Jewish mentality to talk and discuss everything.

Barbara, I do recommend the book. Thank you for leaving a note so I can thank you!


Chrissie I liked it a lot, has my rating indicates!


Chrissie What is fun, Peter, is when you realize you share the same thoughts with another.


Chrissie And to make us think and to teach and to get people talking.


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