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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 'surreality and reality that is the daily life in Israel' / Palestine
Having just read David Grossman's Someone to Run With, I was excited to see the release of To the End of the Land. There is so much in this book that tries to give a picture of life in Israel/Palestine.

Some of the characters that Grossman does this through are Sami, Ora, Ilan and their two sons Adam and Ofer.

Sami the Israeli Arab taxi driver who...
Published on 20 Jan. 2011 by Anne1

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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Love, Loss and Family
The fact that is known before you start this novel is that David Grossman's own son was killed fighting in the Israeli army during the writing of it. It is hard to imagine how he endured such personal pain and still managed to write about matters very close to that loss, and so it is important to judge the novel in its own right, rather than through the prism of this...
Published on 17 Oct. 2010 by JuliaC


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 'surreality and reality that is the daily life in Israel' / Palestine, 20 Jan. 2011
This review is from: To The End of the Land (Hardcover)
Having just read David Grossman's Someone to Run With, I was excited to see the release of To the End of the Land. There is so much in this book that tries to give a picture of life in Israel/Palestine.

Some of the characters that Grossman does this through are Sami, Ora, Ilan and their two sons Adam and Ofer.

Sami the Israeli Arab taxi driver who over the years has become the only driver Ora the Israeli Jew will have, and who has done them many favours like driving for the family at short notice, and late at night, and having to suffer the humilities of the road block checks along the way, who is, in Ora's words 'like part of the family' suddenly becomes fleshed out during her request that he drive Ora and her son to 'the meetery' (the meeting place for the battalions that will invade Gaza) as Ora's son joins the call-up. As they travel the long journey to the meeting point having no option but to travel with the military convoy. Grossman takes a hard look at Sami and what he must be feeling, and how 'being almost part of the family' is Ora's view but not his felt reality - for the power relations of Jewish Isreali and Muslim Arab Israeli are starkly shown. Particularly moving is the time when he has to take a sick boy to South Tel Aviv for treatment. The boy is dressed in Ora's sons hand me down clothes including and Israeli t-shirt to disguise the fact that he is an illegal immigrant from The Occupied Territories, and Sami is forced to take him to an underground "hospital" which at night occupies a school in total secrecy, and in almost darkness lest they alert people to their presence, it opperates with one or two doctors and little medicine. A parallel world. As Sami says, he and his freiends often talk about how Isreali Jews can on one hand search him down to his underwear one moment, and then give them the keys to their schools and precious places at night. Although Ora realises her mistake at making Sami take her son to the call up, realises how hard it must be for Sami, she is nevertheless scadalized by his using her as cover to take the boy for treatment and one senses that it is a very dangerous act for both Sami and Ora, especially as it is the night of the call-up for going in to Gaza, and every Arab is treated with suspicion, and that Jews thought to be helping Arabs is also intolerable to the State of Israel. But she had begged him to make the trip to Tel Aviv for her own purpose, at night, and then exacts her price for Sami's act of taking the boy with them.

Taking her ex lover to walk the Galilee - Jerusalem Trail is an act of survival against the possibility that her son will be killed in Gaza. Not being home and simply waiting, passively, for the Notifiers to come and tell her he's dead, and taking Avram, her once dear friend and lover is a huge thing to accomplish because since his terrible torture as a POW in Egypt he has cut out his old life which included Ora, and her husband Ilan his once best friend. Avram now lives through a haze of legal drugs that he uses to knock himself out and escape the trauma of his torture, and in severe self neglect.

Ora feels that the way to keep her son alive is by talking about his life with Avram. It was another way in to show the surrealism and reality of trying to live a normal family life in Israel/Palestine, and the realities of rearing boys and girls that will, still so young, operate the Occupation, the road blocks, the wars and the capture of Palestinians deemed dangerous to the State of Israel. With huge mistrust and dislike and hatreds on both sides. The son's own part in an abuse of a Palestinian man in an army opperation for which he was not trained and Ora's crisis that a son of hers could have been involved.

I was completely drawn in to the story, and it gave me a rare insight in to what it means to be human in this type of situation. And I felt at the end of the book that I really had no idea where this ongoing tragedy in that area of the world will end up. I am grateful to DG for bring this human element so strongly to the fore, because prior to that I was very firmly in the Palestinian camp of supporters. But now it seems more complicated than ever, and he shows us how much damage has been done since 1948 with the birth of the State of Israel to peoples that in so many ways are so similar.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grossman excels, 7 Oct. 2010
This review is from: To The End of the Land (Hardcover)
This is a wonderful book. Although huge it is hard to put down and one is pleased not to have to come to the end for a very long time. Grossman excels in describing the minute details of emotions and sees right into the heart of Ora, the protagonist. It is not so much about Israel; it is about being a mother - about being a human who loves another passionately. I find it hard to believe that a man wrote this book but I ordered it instantly after hearing Grossman being interviewed on the radio. His humanity shines through his every word. He is so compelling and this is also true of this book.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars this book will change your life, 15 Oct. 2010
By 
L. Landau (England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: To The End of the Land (Hardcover)
To the end of the Land - it broke my heart to read it and yet I was so happy reading it and so grateful for the soulful experience I had when doing so.

David Grossman writes with passion, beauty and deep sorrow, evoking the Land of Israel and especially the Upper Gallilee where Ora and Avram flee during the Lebanon War. We learn how stories can keep you alive, and give you the will to carry on living in the face of danger, loss and terror. (Not Terror, which is a strange construct, and not Terrorism), but the terror and the beauty of life lived in a Land always at war. Ora, the archetypal Jewish mother is inspiring and loveable - surely a first in fiction! Grossman understands the minutae of pregnancy, birth and motherhood with a remarkable degree of empathy.

His descriptions of events during the Yom Kippur war are almost unbearable but worth the effort. You are forced to confront the details of war through the eyes of Avram and Ilan, young soldiers in Sinai/Suez in 1973. We learn how the war has shaped them, and the lives of their children ever since.

This may be the most important book I have ever read, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Grossman wins the Nobel Prize for Literature one day soon. A "War and Peace" epic for our time and a powerful anti-war novel that is essential reading.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Love, Loss and Family, 17 Oct. 2010
By 
JuliaC "Julia Coulton" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: To The End of the Land (Hardcover)
The fact that is known before you start this novel is that David Grossman's own son was killed fighting in the Israeli army during the writing of it. It is hard to imagine how he endured such personal pain and still managed to write about matters very close to that loss, and so it is important to judge the novel in its own right, rather than through the prism of this tragedy, even though this loss very probably changed it's structure and narrative immensely.

The novel is in part a love triangle between three people. We are introduced to them as children in an isolation hospital in Israel. The girl, Ora, is understandably scared to be in such a lonely place, and is befriended by the charming and sociable Avram. He introduces her to his altogether more withdrawn friend Ilan, but surprisingly it is Ilan that Ora subsequently marries and raises a family with.

The context of the novel, takes place when the three have grown up and faced many challenges, both personal and national, and Ora's youngest son Ofer is about to rejoin the Israeli army, having voluntarily put his name forward for extended service after the period of his conscription is over. The act is seen by his mother as one of defiance and total stupidity. She cannot bear to wait at home and wonder when a knock at the door will bring news of his demise, her husband and eldest son, Adam, having left her, and so she embarks on a journey to escape the bad news she dreads will inevitably come.

She undertakes a journey from her home in Jerusalem to walk across Israel to Galilee, and takes a very reluctant Avram, whom she has not seen for a long time, along with her almost against his will. And it is via the device of Ora recounting her story, and that of her family, to Avram that the novel unfolds. Grossman has tremendous descriptive powers. He uses flashback to reveal some stunning truths about what really happened in the depths of her family, and between the triangle of Avram, herself and Ilan.

She reveals what Avram has always suspected but never dared to confront, that Ofer is really his son, even though he was raised by Ilan. The way that Avram shifts gradually along the walk from a position of not wanting to hear any details about him, and even refusing to engage in conversation with Ora about him, to one of interest, warmth and love, is very heart warming and cleverly done. But for me, the walk does go on a little too long without any real resolution to some of the issues hinted at along the way. We are left not really knowing the answers as to why some key things happened, or indeed to what the outcome of others will be. The walk reveals details very slowly, and sometimes they are still somewhat sketchy after the telling. But some of Grossman's narrative is truly emotional, such as the relationship between the two sons Ofer and Adam as they were growing up and how they helped each other out of their own personal challenges much more effectively than their mother could.

This is not an overtly political novel, and some of the themes that are hinted at could perhaps been developed more than Grossman does, but we are left in no doubt as to the author's views of war. More powerful is the theme of the importance of family, and the strength of parental love, in this case as expressed by Ora, in the life of a child. A moving, and very interesting story - with the backdrop of the author's personal tragedy looming large within it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To the heart of war, 3 Nov. 2010
This review is from: To The End of the Land (Hardcover)
I heard a radio commentary on this book as part of a program on the Middle East. It was fascinating to hear that this book had become a bestseller among the left and right in Israel because everyone can relate to the anguish of war, of losing children and loved ones and living in fear.
Grossman captures that in a very moving and profound way though the eyes and instincts of a mother who flees her home rather than wait passively for news of her son on a dangerous military mission. As she walks through the Galilee with an old lover and friend, she recaptures the salient moments of her life as a woman and mother, hoping through memory to keep her son alive. Grossman's ability to get inside this woman, Ora, is quite remarkable and I admired his ability to open all his personal wounds through her. I have never read such touching descriptions of a human being revolting against separation and destruction from war.
Now that winter is approaching, it's a book to savour on long rainy days. Read it when you have time to walk a long stretch with them and your feet also start getting tired and your thinking changes along with the wilderness. It makes you think a lot about life and war. You learn a lot about Israel but it could be about any country in war and any people struggling just to survive, whether the cause feels justified or not. Grossman has written a classic and proved himself to be a great humanist.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars sweeps you off your feet, a masterpiece of the kind that wins a Nobel Prize, 30 July 2011
This review is from: To The End of the Land (Hardcover)
Grossman has a way with words. There are not many people who master Hebrew as he does. His ability to express ideas, thoughts, sentiments, characters, the inner human streams that run in our hearts and minds is admirable. Grossman takes you by the hand, slowly makes you immerse in the story, your soul intertwined with the pictures he paints, you become part of all that is happening to the heroes, all the twists and turns, the emotions, the turmoil, the storms, the fears, the hopes, the love.

I have never seen such a characterization of a relationship between parents and children. It is deep. It is penetrating. It is true. It sweeps you off your feet.

The Hebrew title, A Woman Run Away from News, is truer to the story. It is about a mother, whose younger child is recruited to serve in yet another military operation in a foreign land, designed to promote the security of a nation in arms. She cannot stand the tension. The idea of three officers knocking on her door, announcing the death of her soldier boy, torments her. She decides to trick them. She leaves her home. If there is no recipient to the news, then there will be no news. Together with a close friend, father of her soldier son, she tours the north of Israel. The father never saw his son. He knows nothing about him. While touring beautiful Israel, Ora tells Avram the story of Ofer's life. The story is down to the fine details of memories since Ofer was a baby, until his becoming a young man. The stories move you, startle you; it is impossible to remain aloof, uninvolved. Grossman is an artist with a fine brush, a genius of the pen.

Grossman lost his son Uri in the most unfortunate Israel-Hezbollah War of 2006. A Woman Run Away from News can be seen as his farewell from Uri. Grossman had completed most of the book before he received the news about the death of his son. It is shivering.

A Woman Run Away from News is a masterpiece of the kind that wins a Nobel Prize. Surely, the translation cannot be 100 percent to the original. But I hope that not too many idioms and ideas are left out.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully humane book, 7 July 2011
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Deep Reader - See all my reviews
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This fine novel takes us deep into the lives of three adults and their two sons. All of the players are clearly defined and complete in their strengths and weaknesses, the light and darkness within their characters. It takes no prisoners when it comes to the brutalising effect of the occupation but in the end allows human decency to stand up and be counted for something. In closing, the main viewpoint character lies on the edge of eternity, obliged, at last, to face the future. Compelling, true, not always easy, To the End of the Land will be read and reread for a very long time indeed. In its way it is a record of history, the internal history of a people. Shadow Behind the Sun: Flight from Kosovo: A Woman's Story (Non-Fiction)The Long BridgeAt The Edge: Walking the Atlantic Coast of Ireland and Scotland (Non-Fiction)A Bend in the Nile: My Life in Nubia and Other Places (Non-Fiction)Site Works
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unforgettably heartbreaking: an essential novel of contemporary Israel, 13 Sept. 2010
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This review is from: To The End of the Land (Hardcover)
David Grossman has written a masterpiece. His examination of grief, friendship, motherhood, and other universal themes are situated beautifully in relation to the trauma of war. Above all, this is a celebration of the redemptive power of story-telling, of our ability to heal after unbearable pain and loss. But aside from a profound exploration of inner landscapes, the novel is also an exuberant celebration of Israel's verdant Galilee, a region only rarely explored in Israeli novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making bargains with fate..., 16 Jan. 2012
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: To The End of the Land (Paperback)
We all seem to make them. Making promises to ourselves, to others, even Supreme ones. If a certain outcome is to be avoided, we will do the following... In French, this book's title is: Une femme fuyant l'annonce (a woman fleeing the announcement). It too is apt, and properly describes one of the central themes in the book. A mother sends her son off to war; she fears his death, and knows how it will be delivered - the knock on the door by uniformed men. But her son will not die if she is not there to receive the announcement. The same primordial "reasoning" that a young child uses when he puts his hands over his eyes so that his parents cannot see him. The book's title in English refers to The Galilee, considered the "end of the land" in the far north. And it is there that Ora, the mother, flees, along with her one-time lover (and more), Avram, to go hiking, along what they discover to be the Israel Trail, which traverses the country, from the far northern border with Lebanon to Eilat, on the Red Sea. In hiking, they carefully avoid "The News," again, because if one does not hear it, it cannot happen. Real life and fiction are intertwined. And "haunting" is too weak a word to convey that connection. In writing this book, David Grossman was apparently making a similar bargain with fate. Describe the awful anticipation of losing a son to the war god, and it will not happen. When he was almost finished writing the book, in the final phases of the latest war in Lebanon, 2006, the tank in which his son, Uri, was riding, took a direct hit from a rocket, killing him, and the other three crew members. A David and Goliath kind of death. Something immense and powerful, destroyed by an object only a couple of inches in diameter.

It is hard to write about Israel without writing about war since it is so deeply embedded in the national fabric, commencing at least 20 years prior to the commencement of its formal existence. Grossman starts with the 6-day war of '67 in his prologue. And there is the grim business of the Occupation, and Ora's son, Ofer (promise me you'll only shoot at their feet...mom, you don't understand, this is a war...). But the most disturbing images come from the '73 war. Nary the slightest hint of "Jewish supermen" who can defeat countless Arab armies at a single bound. Rather, it is frightened Israeli soldiers, in isolated outposts along the Suez canal, being overrun by the unlimited manpower in the Egyptian Army. It is about torture, and it is about death from "friendly fire." There is an end-of-the-world nihilism.

Ora, the mother, and sometimes wife, and even an adulteress, is the central character. Grossman manages the remarkable task of telling this story from the female point of view, and seems to hit all the right notes (but what do I know, right?) At one point Ora is bitterly denouncing a litany of Arab names for the problems of her life; but she doesn't stop with the Arabs, and goes on to curse all the Jewish leaders who have not done enough to bring the conflict to an end. There is another scene in which Ora, her husband, Illan, and their two sons, Ofer and Adam go to a restaurant for dinner. War and the proverbial rumors of war are unavoidable at the dinner, in ways that almost all Americans cannot imagine, since we like our wars "abstract," and certainly at a distance. But there is also so much in the book that is only about family life, sans war; the joys and trials of childrearing, so much focus on a child's development for those of us who have been there. There is a sensitivity in the telling of the first steps of a baby that would rival James Agee's A Death in the Family. There are the flashes of wit: Ofer, at the age of four, realizing where meat comes from, decides to join the "Shiite wing of vegetarianism." There is also the loves of one's life, and in this case, Grossman weaves in the possibility of re-visiting the paths not taken in one's earlier life. And who amongst us has not so daydreamed?

Grossman was born in Jerusalem. He has a deep and abiding love of the land which is most evident when he describes the natural world in The Galilee. His book, inevitably, is very much from the point of view of a Jewish native. But he knows... and "sees" so well, the point of view from "the other side of the river." There is Sami, the Arab taxi driver, who states that he also had once been a "member" of that kibbutz; his family had once owned the land. And in referencing the one-time possibility that the Jewish homeland would have been in Uganda, Grossman has Illan say: "And you can be sure that within sixty seconds there would already be deep-seated anti-Semitism." Ofer laughs "And then we'd have had to occupy Tanzania...and Kenya and Zambia...of course just to protect ourselves from their hatred."

I've read the negative reviews of this work, most notably by Neal Ascherson in the "London Review of Books": Long, boring, rambling, incoherent, too many illusions to places and events the reader knows nothing of...mixing a detailed description of a baby's first steps and the tortures endured by a POW in the same novel. Sound like real life to me! And how different are Ulysses (Penguin Modern Classics) or War and Peace (Wordsworth Classics) ? Finally, as an additional fillip: inspiration to hike the Israel trail. 6-stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars `Had you known what would happen, which name would you have wanted to pick?', 17 Jan. 2011
By 
Jennifer Cameron-Smith "Expect the Unexpected" (ACT, Australia) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: To The End of the Land (Hardcover)
The novel opens in 1967 with a lengthy prologue set in the isolation ward of a Tel Aviv hospital during the Six Day War. Three sick teenagers: the girl Ora, and the two boys Avram and Ilan, are terrified that Israel has already fallen to the Egyptians. They try to comfort each other: Ora is already falling in love with the artistic and romantic Avram; it seems possible that Ilan may not survive.

But forty years later, just as another war is beginning, we meet Ora again. She is the mother of two sons and is separated from her husband, Ilan. Her younger son, Ofer, has just finished his military service but has volunteered to serve for a further period during a major offensive. Ofer is taken to the base by the family's long-standing taxi driver, Sami, a Palestinian Israeli who is aware that Ofer will be waging war on his people. This early part of the novel is full of the contrasts between the lives and realities of the different occupants of Israel.

Ora decides that she will not return home. She does not want to be there if there is a knock on the door, and in her anxiety, magical thinking leads her to conclude that there cannot be bad news if it cannot be delivered. Ora decides instead to undertake the hiking trip that she and Ofer had planned and further decides that she will share the journey with Avram. Avram is now a haunted man, physically ill and emotionally detached but he is an important part of Ora's past. Just how important becomes clear as the story unfolds.

During the course of their hike through Israel, Ora and Avram revisit their lives including their tangled relationships with Ilan and each other. Their history and their memories become part of the present as they travel through their lives as well as through the land. Avram's past has anesthetised him and Ora's attempts to share Ofer's life with him need to break through the barriers he has erected around his feelings.

This is a long and at times convoluted story. The imagery - of the uncertainty of life, the injustices of occupation - and the monuments to fallen soldiers, haunt Avram and Ora's present as it has shaped their past. Lives shaped by a continuing battle for survival in every sense, especially for Avram. I found the novel easy to read, but difficult to warm to. Part of this was because of its length but I also found that I did not care for Ora and this impacted on my capacity to feel sympathetic towards her. And because Ora is so central to this story, I could not re-focus easily on the other elements which potentially interested me more. The story of Avram, for example, the challenges faced by Sami, the lives of Ofer, of his elder brother Adam and of Ilan - each of these elements was important but was subsumed into Ora's musings, actions and reactions. Ora's story was simultaneously not enough, and far too much.

`When had she learned these movements and these looks?'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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To The End of the Land
To The End of the Land by David Grossman (Paperback - 1 Sept. 2011)
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