Monday, April 30, 2012

A Pigeon and A Boy

This is the second time I've read this novel by Meir Shalev (I had to read it again for book club) and I think I enjoyed it even more the second time.  The end is very surprising (so I won't reveal it here) but because I knew what was going to happen this time I could better appreciate all the clever foreshadowing and other nuances.  The novel is set in Israel both at the present time and in flashbacks to the War of Independence.  The book is primarily narrated by Yair Mendelsohn, a middle aged tour guide who specializes in bird watching trips.  It tells the story of his relationship with his parents and younger brother, his marriage to Liora, a wealthy businesswoman who has immigrated from the US to run her family's business in Israel, and his affair with Tirzah, a childhood friend with whom he reconnects and who builds a house for him with monies secretly given to him by his mother on her deathbed.  However, the more interesting story is that of his mother who raised pigeons who carried messages during the War of Independence, her relationship with "Baby", another pigeon handler, and the mysterious circumstances surrounding Yair's birth.  There are also some fascinating periphery characters, including Tirzah's father, Meshulam, who is a close friend of Yair's father and goes to great lengths to bring Yair and Tirzah together, and Dr. Laufer, a veterinarian and pigeon handler who speaks only in the feminine first person plural (i.e. "we ladies think...") and, much like Meshulam, facilitates the relationship between Yair's mother and Baby.  The books is obviously really well translated too as the lyrical language doesn't suffer at all in the translation.  I highly recommend this book.

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