Tuesday, 15 April 2014

In the Courtyard of the Kabbalist by Ruchama King Feuerman

Isaac Markowitz, a haberdasher from New York, has moved to Jerusalem to leave behind his past. He becomes assistant to a wise rabbi, a Kabbalist, who daily dispenses wisdom to those troubled souls who collect in the courtyard outside his home.

Here, Isaac encounters an array of characters including the red headed American, Tamar, who is in Israel to find a spiritual husband and Mustafa, a devout Muslim who was deformed at birth. The lives of this unlikely trio are destined to touch one another in ways that none of them could have imagined.

I liked this novel for it’s simplicity. There are no complicated plots to keep up with although has a story that is interesting enough to be worth telling. It flows along at a gentle pace and has a very likeable innocence to it.

I particularly liked the characters in this book and Isaac is quite adorable in a blundering and naïve kind of way. My heart broke for Mustafa who has tried so hard to please people all his life and yet finds himself so unacceptable to everyone due to a deformity.

This novel is very atmospheric and I enjoyed reading about the sights and sounds of Jerusalem and the way the Israeli/Arab worlds collide in this city. It really did make me want to jump on the first flight to Jerusalem I could find so that I could drink it all in for myself. Maybe one day. In the meantime reading books like this that are saturated in the atmosphere of the place are a good substitution.

The author very cleverly presented a city in conflict but gave it humanity through her characters. This is not the side of Israel that we see in the news but a story of the people who live amidst the conflict and how love can cross the division. Superbly done by an author who clearly knows the city well.

I won’t pretend that this is a work of literature but is a lovely story with adorable characters. It has an innocence about it that few novels have and I thought this was all the better for it. I have read that the author has been dubbed the “Jewish Jane Austen” and I can see why that has been applied to her as the novel has a similar gentleness.

This is the authors second novel and I would very much like to read her debut novel, Seven Blessings.

I was fortunate enough to have a pre-release e-copy of this book from the publisher.  However, I have just learned that this book will not be available here in the UK until August although can be pre-ordered from Amazon.co.uk for £9.44. It is available from Amazon.com though so for readers in the UK who can’t wait until it’s release date here you can still get hold of a copy.

ISBN:  978 1590178140

Publisher: New York Review of Books

Price: £9.44

Total saving so far:  £245.56

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