by Amos Oz ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 1996
A vividly and affectionately detailed picture of Israeli village life--and of what might be called a July--October relationship--by acclaimed essayist and novelist Oz (Under This Blazing Light, 1995; Fima, 1993, etc.). The story is set in 1989 in the desert town of Tel-Kedar and is concerned primarily with the relationship between its two principal characters: Theo, a reflective and patient 60-year-old engineer (who was one of the builders of Tel-Kedar), and his more volatile counterpart and lover, 40ish Noa, a busy teacher of literature who also bums up energy with countless community obligations (""It is . . . my ambition to serve the Good . . . not with gushing emotion but with supreme precision""). The novel begins with a superabundance of plot, as the death (perhaps by drug overdose) of one of Noa's students brings to the village the late boy's father, a ""military adviser"" long stationed elsewhere whose neglect of his son motivates him to bankroll a drug-rehabilitation center for young people--a project that Noa is enlisted to head. Her reluctant efforts draw in the amused Theo, involve the unwise purchase of a ""derelict building,"" and necessitate the couple's continuing involvement with a colorfully portrayed bevy of townspeople, most notably the canny woman mayor Batsheva Dinur and local businessman and hustler Muki Peleg (a ""middle-aged lamb . . . trying hard to be a wolf""). Oz handles this pattern of events adroitly, but it pales by contrast with the novel's far richer revelations--in Theo's and Noa's alternating narratives as well as in occasional omniscient chapters, set both now and in flashback, about the unconventional hero and heroine's past history and present amorous dâ€štente. Imagine an easygoing Othello matched with a somewhat younger Cleopatra, each gifted with the quicksilver wit of Beatrice and Benedick, and you'll have some sense of the gently mocking, life-affirming energy that suffuses their union. A perfectly pitched comedy, expertly translated, and one of Oz's most attractive and accomplished books.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996
Page Count: 200
Publisher: Harcourt Brace
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996
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