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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving autobiography
The story works on many levels-political, historical and philosophical. However, the success of the book is in the way these themes are interwoven and translated through Oz's experiences and their effects on him and his family. Producing an intensely moving and sad autobiography which starts as far back as his grandparents can recall.

The vivid storytelling and...
Published on 10 July 2006 by james

versus
1.0 out of 5 stars Dispute the 'expert' reviews.
It was so tedious that I struggled to read one hundred and thirty pages. Too much description and repetition.
Published 5 months ago by E. Guy


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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moving autobiography, 10 July 2006
This review is from: A Tale Of Love And Darkness (Paperback)
The story works on many levels-political, historical and philosophical. However, the success of the book is in the way these themes are interwoven and translated through Oz's experiences and their effects on him and his family. Producing an intensely moving and sad autobiography which starts as far back as his grandparents can recall.

The vivid storytelling and attention to detail transports the reader in to the book and invites you to smell, taste, see and feel the people and places described. The emotions Oz feels, (and allows the reader to experience) are set against a varied backdrop from Eastern Europe to Jerusalem. This fascinating ride is punctuated with increasingly frequent references to his mother's death which arrives with soul destroying inevitability.

In some ways the whole story is about Oz searching to understand why she killed herself and how it affected his life.

If you want to read about the Holocaust, Palestine or the birth of Israel there are many books which would provide more detail. However the loss, emptiness and ecstacy of these events are shown in sharp relief against this incredibly personal story. A story about a boy, his family and life.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting from an historical perspective, 23 Nov. 2009
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This review is from: A Tale Of Love And Darkness (Paperback)
Much had been written in previous reviews on this book and in some ways it is hard to add anything substantial, however for me it was a very interesting read as I have read huge amounts on the history of Israel/Palestine but nothing with such an in depth look into the pyche of some of the first of the Jewish diaspora to settle in the land of Israel. The book revealed a dichotamy between the yearning of the new settlers for their European homelands and their yearning for a new homeland in the face of mounting anti-semitism, their almost love-hate relationship with the new country and the affects of this on their lives. The book, along with many others on the subject goes some way to explain the pyche of the Israelis now. It was interesting too to note that the author did not emerge from his upbringing with the same understanding as his family and their peers regarding the state of Israel and the effect its creation had on its neighbours. On the whole the book was beautifully and beguilingly written but there was quite a bit of repetition - some of which may have been to add to the atmospherics of the book but some just seems like poor editing (some was word for word). There were also (as another reviewer remarked) lots of lists which in the end I sort of skimmed over as these were repeated too. These I found irritating. This was a heart wrenching and emotionally difficult book to read as it made me think about the individual lives of those early settlers rather than looking at them as a whole who, along with the Zionist politcal leaders, brought about the creation of the state of Israel.
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Less a memoir, more a work of art., 30 Nov. 2004
By A Customer
This wide ranging book is describes as a memoir, but it is more a poetic elegy to the birth of Israel and one man's development into a writer. Amos Oz charts the forces of love and darkness that shape the land of Israel and his own character.
He delves deep back into his family ancestry, back to his grandfathers and grandmothers and back to the old folklore and Jewish customs of prewar Eastern Europe. He describes the ambivalent nature of Jewish relations with the Slavic people in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Russia and the growth of the Zionist ideal among the Ashkenazi Jews. Oz relates the story of the escape of both sets of grandparents to Palestine, so avoiding the fate of his other relatives such as his cousin Daniel, the same age as the writer. The dark forests of Russian folklore were the scene of many Nazi atrocities particularly in the Ukraine, from where his mother's family originated.
The central figures in the book are his parents and himself as a precocious child surrounded by intellectual academics such as Uncle Joseph and many other colourful friends and grandparents, as they build new lives in the Jewish homeland. The young Amos has many encounters in wartorn Jerusalem with other characters including Arab children and adults. The small boy fantasizes about playing wargames with the unpopular British, who in 1947 were controlling Palestine. When the war of Independence comes in 1948 and the British leave, the sense of danger and vulnerability are well documented.
And yet the central heart of the book is personal tragedy, as Oz heartrendingly describes the breakdown of his mother and his father's doomed efforts to save her. His parents come across as two well meaning, loving people interested passionately in words and literature. His father is however disappointed in his career and seeks to fill in long family silences with words. The dark forces of disappointment,nostalgia and other unresolved issues overwhelm his mother and lead to her tragic suicide.
The book is a triumphant testimony to the creation of a young nation born in blood and surviving against all expectations. Oz survives too the fragility of his own childhood and the weight of parental hopes borne down upon his young shoulders. He finally realises his dream of joining a kibbutz by escaping from the cramped and ghost-ridden flat in Jerusalem. On Kibbutz Hulda he lives the life of an agricultural worker, becoming part of the new generation of Jewish pioneers. He also changes his European name to a Hebrew name. The love of words which he inherits from his parents proves his salvation and he becomes a writer of everyday events on the kibbutz and elsewhere.
In this fascinating book Oz reveals the ideas and the writers that influenced his early life and those ideas that he reacted against. He also describes encounters with the architects of the new Israel, who were responsible for the modern Israeli mentality.This is different to the mentality of his parents and grandparents, who were scarred by the years of loss and exile. He writes all this in a clear and elegant prose. This book will engage anyone who is interested in Israel and the Middle East, but can be read equally as one man's own remarkable story.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, 13 May 2006
By 
Simon Mawer (Italy) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Tale Of Love And Darkness (Paperback)
Although a very different work, in stature this book ranks with Nabokov's Speak Memory as one of the greatest of autobiographies. Of course it is the autobiography of a master novelist and so it is much more than the story of a life. Through the medium of a rich population of characters it explores the history of central and eastern European Jewry, the founding of the State of Israel, but also, and centrally, the coming of age of a young boy and the slide into depression and suicide of a beautiful and gifted woman (his mother). In all it is a complete and painfully moving work of art.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Of the agony and ecstacy, 26 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: A Tale Of Love And Darkness (Paperback)
A moving, intense memoir of the life of this prolific Israel author, tells of life in the Land of Israel from the 1930s until the early 1950s. The author manages to juggle humor and sadness, in a book which does bring to life the Israel of that time. It is circular in nature and not chronological and dwells also on life in Europe for Jews before the re-establishment of the Jewish State. The two problems with the book are the amount of detail can become monotonous and boring and that Oz sometimes tries too hard to be iconoclastic and cynical, leading simply to a certain putridity. Though my own politics differs from Oz leftwing (yes still humane) political though and that may account for part of my irritation.
The author describes his grandmother's obsession that the Levant is filled with germs, and her immaculate obsession with cleanliness as a result. Oz describes his early childhood with a clear and penetrating memory and end in his mother's suicide at 38 in the early 1950s-with Oz describing her depression and his pain and psychological exploration of her suicide. He describes his intellectual but frustrated father and the stifling, book filled flat in Jerusalem from which he escapes to the animating Kibbutz Hulda at the age of 15. The author describes the situation of Israel in the last years of the British Mandate of Palestine, and provides interesting history of the birth of Israel. From the Holy Land during the Second world war, when the Jewish yishuv (community) of Israel feared the Holocaust coming to the Holy Land at a time when the Nazis looked like they had the Palestine mandate strangled by their control of the Caucuses in the north and their advance in North Africa on the other frontier. At this time Haifa and Tel Aviv, as the auhtor mentions were bombed by Italian planes. The gripping elation and fear at the vote in the Untied Nations at the end of 1947 in which the partition of Palestine was agreed to, the coming of the painful War of Independence and the shortages incurred therein, the atrocities of the war such as the burning alive by Arabs of 50 nurses and doctors on the road to Jerusalem and the killing of dozens of Jews in Jerusalem during a terrorist bombing by pro-Arab British Army deserters calling itself the British Fascist Army. The author describes his first sexual infatuation with a schoolteacher in her 30s named Zelda, and this too is described in immaculate detail. Overall a great contribution to Israeli literature and thought.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable and engrossing, 14 Mar. 2012
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Tale Of Love And Darkness (Paperback)
This is a fascinating autobiography from one of Israel's foremost living writers. Oz is a born storyteller, and he recounts both his own early life and what he knows of those of several prior generations of his family, in a compelling account that's by turns funny, shocking and sad. It's a tale, furthermore, that flows really well in Nicholas de Lange's limpid translation.

As Oz (born 1939) was growing up in that pivotal time that was to lead to the formation of the state of Israel, his own story is necessarily commingled with that of Zionism, successive waves of `aliyah' (immigration to British Mandate Palestine), and the anti-British guerrilla activities of Haganah and other armed groups. The uneasy ambivalence towards the `Arab other', as well as conflict with Palestinians within and the wider Arab world without as Israel comes into existence, are captured too, as is something of his later experiences of kibbutz life as a young adult. There's necessarily much of the history and suffering of European Jewry in the 19th century as a precursor to all of this. But it's a particular strength of Oz's writing that he's neither didactic nor shrill; indeed, he's a remarkably humane and conciliatory voice in a country where views are so often polarised. Tinged with personal tragedy, but on an epic canvas, this is a remarkable and engrossing read.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping story, 21 Sept. 2006
By 
Sancho Mahle (Charlotte, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Tale Of Love And Darkness (Paperback)
A Tale of Love and Darkness is a hilarious though serious book about the life of the author in the historical setting of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Being the great storyteller he is, Amos Oz made the true events so easy to relate to, and as such this book is remarkable.Recommended reads are: Disciples of Fortune, Survival in Auschwitz, The Union Moujik, The Usurper and Other Stories
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Total recall, 11 Oct. 2005
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: A Tale Of Love And Darkness (Paperback)
Others have written what this book is about, so I will not try to describe the content of this book. Like the way he presented his mother, Amos Oz is a born story teller and a great painter with words. There is not a place, a person or an activity but that he presents it in such detail that you can actually SEE them. But I must say that often I found the detail excessive. He seems to have total recall, which is often rewarding but can at other times be a bit of a bore. He tells you the number of steps leading up into a house; he describes the smallest objects in a room without asking himself whether they are truly necessary to establish the room's atmosphere; he is inordinately fond of lists. Here, for instance, is a sentence describing his mother working silently and efficiently in the house: "She cooked, baked, did the washing, put the shopping away, ironed, cleaned, tidied, washed the dishes, sliced vegetables, kneaded dough." His aunts, who tell him about the family's life in Poland, also seem to have had total recall: that life is richly reconstructed, but again for my taste the pudding is often over-egged. Then he describes in minute detail and several times exactly which streets he or his mother would take from one location in Jerusalem to another. That might possibly be evocative for Jerusalemites who know the city; but if they know the city, do they need such a guide? These tiresome excesses are most in evidence when he describes his earliest years, until he is about eight years old; but those chapters take up about 2/3rds of this massive book (though his tale is never entirely chronological). Then, when he is eight, the War of Independence happens (excellent description of Jerusalem under siege), to be followed by the establishment of the State of Israel, and now the narrative becomes rather more concentrated and with fewer of the mannerisms of the earlier part. There is a magnificent description how, at the age of 15, this pale, immensely precocious cerebral but romantic youth escapes from the stifling intellectual world represented by his father and his father's friends, to live among the bronzed young gods on a kibbutz. He will stay on that kibbutz for the next 31 years, but his story ends with his adolescent admiration of the goddess who will become his wife five or six years later. And that is where, chronologically, his story ends (though throughout the book there are brief references to events in his later life).
This is a totally inadequate account of the book, and does not even touch on the thread that runs throughout: his relationship with his parents and their relationship with each other. Despite the irritations I sometimes felt, I was never tempted to put the book aside: it is far too interesting and well-written well-written for that.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I was a word-child...but I had no one to listen to me.", 26 Oct. 2004
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
The child of Ashkenazi Jews who escaped to Jerusalem just before the outbreak of World War II, Amos Klausner (the author's original name) grew up in a scholarly family which encouraged his precocity. His great uncle Joseph was Chair of Jewish History at Hebrew University of Jerusalem and wrote his magnum opus about Jesus of Nazareth. His father read sixteen or seventeen languages, wrote poetry, and had an enormous library, while his mother spoke four or five languages, could read seven or eight, and told elaborate stories.
Amos grew up a solitary child, encouraged to entertain himself while his parents worked. Always a writer at heart, he believed that "it was not enough for me to be intelligent, rational, good, sensitive, creative." He often felt he was a "one-child show...a non-stop performance," always on display to the relatives, his accomplishments never seeming to be enough.
In this elaborate, non-linear autobiography, Oz and his family are seen as archetypal immigrants to Jerusalem, people who arrived when the land was still under British rule and who helped create a new homeland, arguing ferociously about the direction the country should take and the leaders who should lead it. The history of Jerusalem overelaps with the author's own genealogical records and his memories about his early family life to create a broad picture of the society in which he grew up and in which his writing talent took root.
Detailed, highly descriptive, and filled with introspection about his unusual life, the book shows the tensions within the society and within his family. After his mother's suicide when he was twelve, he broke with his father, joined a kibbutz, and changed his name at fifteen. His observations about himself in relation to his peers and in relation to the outside world, even at that young age, show his inner turmoil and determination to discover a personal identity.
As the book moves back and forth in time, the author comments about his writing, the people who influenced him, and his "pickpocketing," his "stealing" of the lives of real people in order to invent stories about them. His observations about Israel, its leaders, its never-ending wars with the Arabs, and his experience as a resident of a kibbutz for more than thirty years broaden the scope and provide insight into one man's life in this developing country. Obviously a huge achievement for Oz personally, this is also a huge contribution to the understanding of the growth of a Jewish homeland and to an understanding of how Oz became the writer he is. Much more detailed and leisurely than Oz's novels, this is slow but satisfying reading for those who admire his novels. Mary Whipple
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A profoundly moving book about his parents, 12 Feb. 2014
This review is from: A Tale Of Love And Darkness (Paperback)
I must admit, I didn't think I wanted to read this, and it languished on the shelf for some time (perhaps because of the small print and large number of pages!). But what a saga. This is, at its best, a touching and often moving portrait of the author's mother and father, and sets the founding of Israel clearly in the context of the aftermath of the horrors of WWII. There are other points of view of this history, of course, which also have to be read, but the author's relationship with his tragically disturbed mother and affectionate but eccentric father are among the best of that kind I have read, and the glimpse of post WWII history invaluable. A small chunk at the end about the author's teenage love life should have been cut in the interests of good taste, but it remains nevertheless an extraordinary and moving read. Oh yes, the cover in no way does it justice, this is not an L. P. Hartley, but something much more profound.
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A Tale Of Love And Darkness
A Tale Of Love And Darkness by Amos Oz (Paperback - 4 Aug. 2005)
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