SECOND OPINION: All the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan

Review published on July 7, 2018.

Liat is an Israeli translator working in New York for a year. Hilmi is an artist, a painter also living in New York but originally from Palestine. They meet and start a passionate affair knowing there will be difficulties and also that it will probably end when Liat returns to Israel. This novel was banned in Israeli schools because of its depiction of a taboo relationship.

Dorit Rabinyan deals with the subject with sensitivity. Told mostly from Liat’s point of view, she highlights all the difficulties of such a relationship. Liat is afraid of her parents finding out and banishes Hilmi from the room when she phones them, there are difficult conversations about her army service, about the occupation, the building of the wall etc. Although this is a love story not a political novel, it does give quite an insight into the Israel/Palestine situation.

I liked both the main characters. They were sympathetically drawn and their relationship seemed very realistic. However, I was slightly disappointed by the ending. I felt that the author lost courage here.

This was also a good novel of place. The description of the long winter in New York was vivid as were Hilmi’s descriptions of places he had lived in Palestine. When Liat returns to Tel Aviv she describes her relief at being back in a place where she hears, reads and speaks her own language: ‘Hebrew in the newspapers, in crossword clues’. There is a beautiful description of Tel Aviv at the beginning of that chapter.

The book would be a good one for a reading group as there are two strong areas for discussion – the relationship between Liat and Hilmi and the relationship between Israel and Palestine.

Maddy Broome 4/4

All the Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan
Serpent’s Tail 9781781257647 pbk Mar 2017

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