A blog of endless curiosity
This is one of the most moving books I’ve read in a while, and it’s taken me almost 2 months to read it because I wanted to spend time with it only when I had the energy to take in every word.
The story revolves around Ora, a Jewish woman who has lived her life in Israel. The course of her life has been marred by the many violences that Israel has experienced. When her son Ofer volunteers to fight after he has just finished his compulsory army service, Ora decides she can’t bear to hear the news that her son is dead, and leaves for the most remote walking trail – the Trail of Israel. She drags an old lover, Avram, with her on her journey, and speaks to him about her son – remembering all the moments that make him who he is. Of course, the reader feels they know Ofer almost as well as Ora does by the end. Ora and Avram themselves have a very intriguing story with secrets and pain – Avram was tortured by the Egyptians and came back from that war a broken man – and a fascinating love triangle between them and Ora’s husband, Avram’s best friend Illan. Avram is a shiningly creative and wonderful character, truthful and wise beyond his experience, and a joy to read.
‘To the End of the Land’ is not only about war, but about love, in forms not usually reified in popular culture, about selflessness and its costs, and about Ora’s attempt to rediscover the strength of her personality which has been worn down by the petty battles of the men in her family and by the history of violence and fear which they live within.
It’s hard to do this book justice in a review, because it’s a masterpiece. It brings to roaring life a country and a conflict which can often be very difficult to understand, through the eyes of men, women and children. It pays the perfect amount of attention to small detail and its structure is often breathtaking. Grossman jumps easefully between Ora and Avram’s teenhood to the trail they walk, to their romance in their late twenties, to Ofer’s childhood and back again. He never misses a stride whether lightening a torture scene with a comic and oh-so-human touch, tackling the nuances of his incredibly realistic characters, or elucidating a mother’s frenetic grief. ‘To the End of the Land’ is stunning and will appeal to readers of Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns), and Hirsi Ayaan Ali (Infidel, Nomad & The Caged Virgin). Its prose absolutely sings, and a metaphor here and there will cry out to you to be read aloud. To me this is near perfect