If you are looking for a book to really immerse yourself in, this novel by Eve Harris would be a great choice. It focuses on a group of characters from an orthodox Jewish community in north London, which in itself makes for a fascinating read.
The story centres around the marriage of Chani Kaufman, a young orthodox Jewish woman, to Baruch Levy, who is a total stranger to her. These two are engaging characters whose individual attitudes to the situation make the book so compelling.
Both Chani and Baruch have previously rejected potential future spouses and Chani has even been rejected herself by some. Because of Chani’s strict orthodox upbringing she has had no physical contact with a man and much of marriage remains a total mystery to her, particularly sex, which she is naturally eager to learn about.
One of the characters who helps Chani along this journey is the Rabbi’s wife, Rivka, another likeable character. As the story progresses, we discover that she has her own issues to address, and we learn that Rivka has not always followed such a traditional orthodox lifestyle.
Many of the characters have secrets or backgrounds waiting to be uncovered by the reader, and there are sad moments in the book that help our understanding of their personalities. Equally there are some funny moments, notably with Baruch’s mother, who is deeply opposed to the forthcoming nuptials. As a character, she adds humour to the novel – especially in her interactions with Chani.
What I found such an eye opener about the book was not only the insight into orthodox customs and routines but also the way in which it provides an understanding of each character’s motivation to follow their chosen path.
A lovely book, it is at times sad and at times very entertaining but always totally engrossing.
At the end of the books is a Hebrew glossary – a great help, ensuring that the Hebrew words used in the novel never become a source of frustration.
Definitely one for your “To read” list!
This recommendation was provided by Ceri Chaudhry. She is not in any way connected to the book, the author or the publisher.