An extraordinary epic of a novel, in reality a Shakespearean tragedy with the Middle East as its background, ranging from 1922 to 1956. It is told in first person through the eyes of the Haj's son, Ishmael, the only family member who learned to read and write. It is a very compassionate novel, yet critical of all the major global players: Israel, the Arab states, Britain, Russia and the United States. Most of all, it is critical of the Arabs, whom Uris presents as prisoners of their culture of fifteen hundred years. There are many characters, Arab and Israeli, who enter and leave the story. Only the main ones persist to the end: Ishmael and Haj Ibrahim. One finishes this book and closes the covers with sadness, wishing things could have been different for these people. After all, they merely wanted to improve the conditions of their lives. It is not an easy story to read; it is long, and has several gruesome scenes that this reader found hard to wade through, including a description of the corpse of Ibrahim’s favourite daughter, Nada, whom he loved dearly, hacked to pieces by his own hand because she loved men outside of marriage and of anyone the Haj would have chosen for her in the old desert way. It was hard to take for this reader. Regardless, this is a fine novel.
A must read in getting some grip on the culture and politics of the Middle East. And why one should not hold their breath waiting for things to get better.
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