Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Ishmael's Oranges - Claire Hajaj

A keen insight into the Jew-Palestanian conflict and the way it affects human lives caught within it.

I couldn't help compare it to the The Almond tree by Michele Coran Corasanti which handles the same theme from a different point of view. The Almond Tree book deals with the story of an Arab who battles poverty and the strife in the country to rise above his stature, he makes his way to the US as a renowned professor and then comes back for his family who were unable to escape as he could.  Hajaj's story is about a Palestanian boy, Salim and a Jewish girl, Judith who are on the opposite sides of the strife. They find love on neutral ground and attempt to build a life yet find their prejudices and differences constantly threatening their happiness.

The Gist:

As a boy, Salim flees his house, forsaking his beloved orange tree in Jaffa when the war breaks out between the Jews and Palestanian Arabs. To make matters worse, his mother leaves the family too, taking only their youngest sibling Rafan with her. Years later, Salim heads to London to pursue higher studies and falls in love with Judith, with a story of her own. Despite scepticism and stiff opposition, they get married and start a new life away from Israel, but eventually find themselves at crossroads, confronting their past and prejudices.

What works:

  • The characters come alive in the pages and win the empathy of the reader. This need to break away from the strife when everything else reiterates their cultural notions is done quite well.
  • The story flows very well and offers an objective and emotional view of the situation in Israel. 
  • The narrative is powerful and the writing style is smooth.

What doesn't:

The pace is a bit slow in the beginning, the letter in the beginning did not make sense till I read the end and then I had to read the beginning chapter again to make sense of it. But that highlights explains the skill of the writer and credit to her for handling such a difficult subject with such tact.

In a nutshell, a great read, well written and offers an interesting perspective on a conflict that needs to be documented more in literature.

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