Ronit left London to carve out a new life for herself. In New York she is a successful career woman, who smokes and drinks and is in a relationship with a married man.
When her father dies she has to return to London and the close-knit community of her childhood. She causes outrage within the Orthodox Jewish community that she left behind but Ronit finds herself questioning her past. When she meets with her childhood friend, Esti, she is forced to confront the issues that she ran away from and also to consider her future. What was intended as a quick visit to sort out her fathers effects has life changing consequences for Ronit.
I enjoyed this book very much. Set within an Orthodox Jewish community this book is in turns very serious and laugh out loud funny. The author clearly has a good understanding of her setting for this novel. She grew up in Hendon where the novel is set and was part of a community such as this. It is her background that has enabled her to describe so clearly this closed community and to do so with both poignancy and tenderness.
Each chapter begins with Jewish teaching and enables the reader to understand the motives and thoughts of the characters involved. Ronit’s behaviour to others is often outrageous and unkind but I found myself really liking her and being drawn to this character; for she is so ordinarily human and faces all the difficulties and self-doubts many people do in one situation or another.
It also deals with some interesting themes. I have seen this book described as being about same sex relationships but I think it is about so much more than that. For me, its main theme was that of self-acceptance within a judgemental environment and places this book in a whole new dimension. Ms. Alderman has written with understanding and sensitivity and has a clear affection for her characters and the dilemmas they individually face.
As added features the books includes an interview with the author and a selection of recipes typical of that which might be eaten in Jewish households during the Sabbath, some of which I have cooked and can recommend.
I loved this book and as a debut novel I think is fantastic. It is no surprise that this novel won the 2006 Orange Award for New Writers. Her style is reminiscent of Zadie Smith and Monica Ali and anyone who has read and enjoyed their work will like this book. Naomi Alderman has published two other novels since this one and I can’t wait to get my hands on them. An excellent novel and one that I highly recommend.
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