Bagels and Books – met today

to talk about books with a connection to Israel.  Missed some of our regulars but we had a great discussion.

Next month – January 5 – we’ll be talking about books from India

In February we are moving to Scandinavia and to hold onto to our countries that begin with I theme, we are including Iceland. For our final meeting on March 1 we’ll abandon it completely and talk about books from/about Africa.

So here’s some of what we read.

The Family Orchard by Nomi Eve about immigrants to Israel – very family tree focused.  Billed as a novel but felt biographical.

Here Comes Mrs. Kugelman by Minka Pradelski – Young woman goes to Tel Aviv to receive an inheritance – an incomplete fish service in a battered brown suitcase and meets Mrs. Kugelman whose stories help her understand both the strange bequest and her family’s story.

Sima’s Undergarments for Women by Ilana Stanger-Ross – woman sets up a shop to sell underwear in the basement of her Brooklyn apartment -interesting story of New York’s underground sisterhood and the story of a young illegal immigrant who becomes part of the shop.

The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century by David Lasken – the Story of the Laskin family from Russia – one branch of which came to America and founded MaidenForm Bra company, one went to Palestine at the birth of Israel and one stayed in Europe and suffered the Nazi occupation.  Highly recommended.  (when you talk about books one always suggests another one)

The Hope       –       The Glory – both by Herman Wouk – novels that follow Israel up to the 6 days war and beyond.  Described as a bit of Margery Morningstar goes to Israel.

The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis (winner of the National Jewish book Award and beloved by many newspapers)  One day in the life of Baruch Kotler a Soviet Jewish dissident who now finds himself a disgraced Israeli politician.  He escapes to Yalta and encounters the former friend who sent him to the Gulag almost 40 years earlier.  Highly recommended.

Kaaterskill Falls by Allegra Goodman. – story of Orthodox Jewish families who spend the summers in the upstate New York town.  Elizabeth Schulman is a devout follower of her rabbi but she wants a project of her own – only one of the people in the story struggling with the conflict between the demands of her religion and her instincts.  Highly recommended.

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks – story of David (from his youth) – Also briefly mentioned was her book The People of the Book and the New Yorker article on that subject written before the book was published.

The Dove Keepers  by Alice Hoffman– historical account of the battle of Masada told through the eyes of 4 women – found the book a bit draggy and liked the TV adaptation better.

The Last Man  by P. T. Deutermann – not especially recommended but interesting because it is a totally different take on the same battle.  This one features a current day CIA agent who goes back to find what he is certain is a secret buried when everyone in the siege kills themselves as the Romans advance.  (kind of Da Vinci Code ish)

The Missing File by D. A. Mishani – a police procedural set in Israel.  Interesting look at the city- has a psychological component of both the crime and the police detective.  His second title is A Possibility of Violence.

Someone to Run With by David Grossman – an author with a number of books that are generally enjoyed.  This one is the story of a lost dog and the discovery of first love on the streets of Jerusalem.

The Hilltop: A Novel by Assaf Gavron – described as funny and moving this book got very good reviews but our reader didn’t especially like it.  It is about the West Bank settlement.

The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan – story of a Palestinian and an Israeli family who come together when three Palestinian cousins who were forced from their homes come back to Israel to try and see where they used to live.  The relationship that forms between these two families provides some small measure of hope.

A Perfect Peace by Amos Oz – set on a kibbutz before the 6 Day War it follows a family and a young man who wanders in to become part of the kibbutz.  Beautifully written but very slow moving – a good book for a long winter snow storm.

Palestine by Joe Sacco – a graphic novel that is the story of a journalist’s trip to Palestine to try and understand the situation of the Palestinian people.  Written in the early 90’s, it is still relevant today

Prince of Fire by Daniel Silva – a favorite author  This is #5 in his series about Gabriel Allon  – the man who is both an Israeli intelligence agent and an art restorer.  This was much enjoyed.

And because I thought we needed to at look at some serious history – Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore – 3,000 years of history of the city.  Received awards and Bill Clinton thought it was great.


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