This book comprises a mix of fact, supposition, and fiction based upon, and surrounding, some events in the life Dr Syma Finkelman, the author’s aunt. This mix will lead some to categorise the book as biographical fiction.
The story commences in Poland, the protagonists place of birth and home. The reader is provided with insights into what life was like there in the mid-1930s. The story primarily unfolds during 1935. Dr Finkelman is of Jewish birth and lives within the Jewish community of Chortkow. Like many of her contemporaries the thought of visiting Palestine or, as they preferred to call it, The Land of Israel, played on her mind. This was prior to the establishment of the State of Israel. In fact such visits and subsequent immigrations fuelled creation of the State.
Subsequent to her father’s passing, Syma decided to follow her younger brother who had already relocated, though she only intended a short visit of a month or so. Once there she would determine whether it desirable to also permanently relocate.
During the sea voyage, Dr Finkelman, a woman far ahead of the social norms for women of the time, meets Nathan. Unexpectedly they quickly develop a close connection that continues beyond their arrival at the city of Haifa. In the story Syma’s brother is an architect deeply engrossed in the construction of modernistic city dwellings and the like. The love story is set against the background of this modernisation as well as the social conditions, understandings, and acceptances of the returning diaspora. The reader is presented with considerable insights into this historic time, though not the extent of overriding the central love story. Some informative photographs are also included which, surprisingly, do not deter from the fictional style of the book. In fact, it all hangs together very well. (Nina Rimon Davis has done a reasonable job of translating the author’s native Hebrew into English.)
The interspersion of three, consequential, dreams through the narrative may strike some as bizarre. Whether these are an attempt to visualise the protagonist’s unsettled mind and emotions, so much was happening in a very short time span, is not clear. The truth is however, they contribute little to the tale and it would probably have been preferential to leave them out. They do cause a slight hiccup in the flow that otherwise carries the reader forward smoothly.
The final section of the book jumps forward seven years into the second world war and its awful consequences for some.
Anyone interested in the creation of the State of Israel will find this an interesting and insightful book. Those who are not so disposed will enjoy a gentle romance set against a historic but unobtrusive background.
Available in hardback, paperback, and digital (ebook) formats.
Another of the author’s books based upon family discoveries that has also been reviewed. Click here to read.