THE LIBERATED BRIDE by A.B.Yehoshua

Reviewed by Nordeen Morello, Book'em.....take our poll!

(October 20, 2005)The Liberated BrideThe English translation of renowned Israeli novelist A. B.Yehoshua's The Liberated Bride offered Book-'Em a look into the world of Israeli-Arab daily life. Set in Haifa, the "Orientalist" scholar Professor Rivlin and his wife Hagit, a prominent local judge, are the protagonists of this story. They have two grown sons and the book revolves around Rivlin's maniacal obsession with the unexplained failed marriage of the younger one, Ofer. His quest for uncovering the truth, the scholar's job as a historian, allows him excursions into Jerusalem, the Palestinian territories and the village and home of a young, female, Arab student, Samaher. Thus the reader is introduced to the multiple characters populating The Liberated Bride.

Additional figures are Rivlin’s ailing academic mentor, Hagit’s visiting ex-patriot sister and brother-in-law, Samaher’s colorful cousin, and Ofer’s former wife’s family and employees. Professor Rivlin, while avoiding his own scholarly work to pursue his search, seems to unravel before the readers eyes as numerous sub stories unfold. Under the guise of looking for answers to Ofer's situation, there is an element of thrill-seeking to his adventures.

If this review feels unsatisfying, then it has suggested our group's response to the book. Many members did not manage to get through the novel's 500+ pages, losing interest in the overdone writing, the storyline and/or the characters. Only one member enthusiastically loved this book and loved Rivlin "for his obsessive lunacy." We felt that the author offered a "slice of life" look at the complex issues and interactions of the Arabs and Israelis. But we also sensed there was another more important layer beneath the storyline that escaped our understanding. We asked what message the author had encoded in these pages as to the "hows" and "whys" of Middle Eastern tensions today.

The expatriate brother-in-law admonishes Rivlin: "You're all terribly spoiled. You think all the tears in the world belong to you…I'm tired of spoiled Israelis whining all the time…. it's time for Israel to look beyond its local squabbles." Samaher translates an ancient North African folktale of a snake and a hyena which ends: "Nobody likes snakes or hyenas…yet if the two of us get together, become friends and formed a single monster…" Was this a parable for Israel and Palestine? The author also scripts multiple anti-Arab sentiments into the mouths of Rivlin's academic peers. "They can recite love poems all night but they're still vipers."

Yehoshua is masterful in the use of symbolism. Eyeglasses, representing perspective and point of view, appear several times and are broken in a dramatic moment. There are multiple references to boundaries that conjure up geographic, emotional, physical and figurative bounds all of which are transgressed in this work. One reader viewed a surprisingly fierce argument between Rivlin and Hagit as a possible metaphor for Arab/Israeli conflict.

The Liberated Bride was glowingly reviewed by The New York Times and has found responsive and enthusiastic readers. Perhaps its subject matter was not familiar enough to our group. Perhaps its length and writing style were ill suited for our "over the summer" reading selection. In sum, perhaps we did not do it justice. As a choice for your own group: proceed at your own risk.

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