Review published on January 2, 2018.
I’ve long believed that the Middle East would be excellent backdrop for a modern Romeo and Juliet story. In this book Rabinyan does just that, with a Jewish Israeli woman Liat, falling for a Palestinian man, Hilmi. The portrayal of this relationship is precisely what got this book banned from the Israeli High School curriculum in 2015, the announcement of which turned it into an “overnight” bestseller.
While this might not sound all that exceptional, what changes this into something extraordinary is Rabinyan’s writing. In fact, I believe that what Rabinyan has achieved here is nothing short of stellar. As noted above, essentially this is a classic plot of star-crossed lovers, using a setting where everything in their lives, both internal and external, is against them. Hilmi is making a life in New York as an upcoming artist, while Liat is only there temporarily, soon to return to her life back in Israel. Using this limited time-frame, Rabinyan perfectly portrays the inner turmoil that Liat goes through in her attempts to keep the relationship casual, while her feelings grow ever deeper. Rabinyan’s prose goes from dreamlike to powerful where each piece of her connection to Hilmi comes across with both sensitivity and profound emotions, that leap from the page and affect us viscerally.
In short, there is nothing here that I could fault with this book. The plot, the characters, and above all, the writing, are all carefully crafted and come across with remarkable beauty and poignancy.
Davida Chazan 5/5
All the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan
Serpent’s Tail 9781781257647 pbk Mar 2017