I initially bought this book as a birthday gift for a friend, but soon after I changed my mind and didn't want to give it away anymore. It took me a month to read this book, but it was not its fault, it was mine. I am afraid of big books, but I'm proud to say that A Tale of Love and Darkness
was the first step toward my rehabilitation. Look, I even got the courage to read Cloud Atlas
It is also true that this book is not easy to read, as it has no actual plot and some parts are overflowing with Jewish names, dates and events that are hard to digest. And some of these parts come right at the beginning, kneeling you down and making you give up the book. I was almost defeated, but I struggled and struggled and finally came up to a beautiful clearing. And once I got a glimpse of it, I couldn't be made to kneel down anymore. Some parts were so wonderful that I felt like crying and laughing with joy. I may sound like a religious convert, but A Tale of Love and Darkness
is the epitome of the "laugh, cry and think" type of book.
So what's this book really about? It's a series of recollections that tell the story of Amos Oz' family intermingled with those of friends and acquaintances, having as background the land of Israel, from the British rule period to years after the proclamation of the State.
It's a lesson of history, politics, sociology, literature and geography, all into one. I can't say that now I have a full knowledge and understanding of Israel and Jewish people, but I've learnt a lot of interesting things from this book.
The "plot" is a bit hard to follow, because it's not linear - it jumps back and forth, palpably avoiding the recollection of one tragic event that marked Amos Oz' childhood - his mother's suicide.
It's a mixture of Amos' memories from Israel, parents' and relatives' recollections from their former life in Europe and the magical bed-time stories told by Fania, Amos' mother. It may seem a mishmash, but it isn't. Even with my loose reading, I remembered (almost) each character and event (and they were way too many), because Amos Oz had a way of reminding me about them throughout the story. I noticed that and I loved it. It may be called repetition, but for me it was a blessed attribute.
I found an image of Amos Oz with his parents and I must say that I was overwhelmed by his mother's beauty... Her story seems even more tragic.Amos Oz with parents Fania and Yehuda Arye Klausner