Jewish women - Fiction.
Marche's language is beautiful and reading this book made a couple subway rides fly by, but when the choice was between reading this book and anything other than staring at ads on the subway, I wasn't interested. I don't really care about Raymond or Hannah.
I read the last section of the book this morning to see what happens, and then I returned it to the library. It reminded me a lot of Shawn Wong's American Knees - especially the way in which it weaves sexual desire and identity politics.
Not to mention, the author uses the margins of each page to write witty character reflections.
Thorman An inauspicious start, given the force, breadth, and majesty of his second book. A brief and worthwhile romance with a very slight twist on the form.
The unconventional style worked for me--the book is broken into very short sections instead of chapters, each section from one paragraph to three pages long, and at the beginning of each section is a little marginal annotation about who's speaking, where we are, what's going on, or if all those things are self-explanatory, just a little comment on the action.
That technique allowed Marche to move fluidly between perspectives, places, and events without spen This book has some very strong points.
That technique allowed Marche to move fluidly between perspectives, places, and events without spending any time on filler. Many of the sections are like little prose poems, but the lyric parts never caused me to lose my place in the story.
The love story is beautifully portrayed and I rooted for it, rooted for them, so that when the narrative took a turn that seemed calculated to make the story less romance-novel predictable, I was disappointed. The story had already set up the difficulties for the two lovers: Hannah is off to a Jerusalem yeshiva to reconnect with her Jewish identity, Raymond is a WASPy atheist finishing a PhD, and they're physically and culturally remote from one another for most of the story.
I would have preferred to see the story work itself out on those terms than to have it go, well, the way it does. I was also a little unbelieving of the tiny social universe they both live in--Hannah's family is next to nonexistent only Raymond sees her off at the airport even though she spends most of the novel dealing with her heritage, and Raymond is some kind of PhD student who never teaches, who meets with his advisor once every few months, and who spends every day alone in a library.
Maybe that's how it works in Canada, I don't know. But Hannah's yeshiva classmates were a joy to read about, as were the theological explorations they take each other through, and Marche's descriptions of Jerusalem were vivid and immediate.
Overall, it has its problems--I am somewhat inclined to call them "first-novel problems"--but it's an interesting experiment, and a beautiful exercise in writing about the intellectual and the carnal as parts of the same story. They meet in Toronto, but Hannah will be leaving in a week for a nine-month course at a yeshiva in Jerusalem, paid for by her late grandfather.
Marche has formatted the book as little sections with little sidebar captions, which I did not appreciate all that much. It reminded me of the Bibles of my childhood, and I found that it was more of a distraction than any kind of added value.
Okay, it was irritating and gimmicky. I liked the other students at the yeshiva and their descriptions. I also found some of the theological arguments more interesting than the predictable romance, betrayal and coming back together.PLEASE NOTE THESE VERY IMPORTANT DETAILS!
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