I first encountered Oz’s books back in 2003 when a friend of mine suggested I read ‘Fima’, mainly because of the derogatory way he portrays a Maltese woman. That aside I thought it was a very good novel and enjoyed reading it.
My second attempt (within the same year) was ‘Panther in the Basement’ and I didn’t like that one at all. After six years ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness’ comes into my life and is the tiebreaker.
One aspect about my character is that I hate leaving a book half finished, no matter how dull, I feel that I have to read it till the very end or I won’t be able to give a full criticism and the first 200 pages of this book are a tough slog. After that the novel shifts it’s focus and it’s an easier ride.
Essentially this is an autobiography. As one can see Oz had a lot of demons to be exorcised and A Tale of Love and Darkness is, indeed a personal work. Suicide, death and war all feature and we get Oz’s views and commentaries on each of these life happenings.
That is not to say that the reader feels shunned, in fact the book invites you to share Oz’s life and take part in his trials and tribulations. There a light moments as well.
Like all good autobiographies personal history is linked with world events and the period that Amos Oz focuses on is the Jewish migration of the 1930’s to the 1947 Israel/Arab war. A famous cast of characters from Ben-Gurion to Isiah Berlin all make an appearance at one point or another.
Despite all this the stress is on Oz’s mother’s suicide, in which changes his life completely. Though this is a cleverly written book and we don’t really get the method till the very last chapter. The remaining 61 deal with the events leading to and the repercussions of this act.
If you have patience then this can be a very rewarding book. Insightful , tender and sometimes harrowing this is one book that resonates in the memory long after it has been read.