Joshua: A Brookyln Tale

Andrew Kane, Joshua: A Brooklyn Tale

Thank you to the author, who supplied me with a review copy of his book.

This unusual historical novel is set, as its name suggests, in Brooklyn, and describes the intertwined lives of Jews and blacks during times of racial tensions.  The main characters are a Jewish woman struggling with remaining within the religious fold, a black man who overcomes his disadvantaged background to become a successful lawyer and a complex baal teshuvah from a wealthy background.  Kane tells an engaging story – the book flows easily and hold the reader’s interest, and explores some important topics through its narrative, yet the story is fantastic, the characters are rather superficial and surprisingly, there are a number of technical inaccuracies.  And while a worthy attempt at a new genre of historical fiction, the work is too ambitious – the author tries to address not just inter-racial violence, movement in and out of faith communities, but also poverty, drug-abuse, marital discord, infidelity, infertility, religious extremism and bigotry.

The Balfour Declaration

Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict

Jonathan Schneer has produced an extremely detailed study of the events leading up to the 1917 Balfour Declaration.  It is packed with fascinating material surrounding one of the most turbulent yet formative moments in modern Jewish history.  Schneer’s thesis is that the root cause of the current Arab-Israeli conflict is that the British government promised Palestine to both the Jews and the Arabs.  The book is unecessarily complicated, and is poorly written and oddly edited in places (there are some irritating and amusing infelicities in the English), and I found some sections hard to follow; it is overly long and jerky in its narrative direction.  Yet I learned a great deal from the book, enjoyed it and feel that its thesis is cogent and important.

The Four Elements of Life

Roxana Jones, The Four Elements of Life (While I Was Learning to Become God)

I received a review copy of this book.  I found it very disappointing - in fact, I nearly gave up on several occasions, although I did eventually get through both volumes. While indeed oppressed by a controlling and mean husband, I found the story of Sybil's transformation to be narcissistic, and, in places, unintelligible. The text is poorly-written, meandering between sequences of short, underdeveloped phrases and long, over-complex sentences. While the first volume had its endearing moments (the middle part was quite enjoyable), I found the second with its focus on angelic interventions and the like, especially inaccessible. Sorry, but it didn't speak to me at all.