4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Hannah Gonen, thirty years old and living in Jerusalem in the late 1950s, has been wife for ten years to a man she pursued and married when she was in her first year at the university and he was a graduate student. Michael, who describes himself as "good...a bit lethargic, but hard-working, responsible, clean, and very honest," eventually earns his PhD. in geology and begins work at the university, but Hannah, who has given up her literature studies upon her marriage, soon finds married life--and Michael himself--to be tedious.
Writing in short, factual sentences, which come alive through his choice of details, author Amos Oz, often mentioned as a Nobel Prize candidate, creates the story of a marriage which may or may not survive. Hannah and Michael married in 1949, shortly after Israel gained its independence, and the author often uses Hannah's battles for independence and control to reflect the growing pains of a new land determined to defend itself. As their family backgrounds unfold, the behavior of Hannah and Michael within the marriage are seen in a wider context. Hannah yearns for excitement, often drawing on her store of vibrant childhood memories to escape into a dream world. Michael, hard-working and pragmatic, remains a geologist, firmly connected to the earth.
Mnired in depression after the birth of their son, Hannah gradually becomes more and more unstable, depressed, and hysterical, until she becomes ill, a condition which she sees, ironically, as offering her freedom. As the marriage and Hannah's sanity deteriorate, the author's use of symbols gives depth and universality to the story. Hannah often imagines a glass dome over herself and her family. She remembers, as a child, bossing around Arab twins in her neighborhood, and she now fears they will wreak vengeance on her. Her relationship with an innocent Orthodox teenager turns into a power struggle, and she creates a new personality--that of Yvonne Azulai, a young woman who leads an exciting life. Even the changing seasons parallel Hannah's state of mind.
Rich with imagery, dense with symbols, and psychologically true, the novel is as pertinent today as it was when it was written in 1968, achieving rare universality, even though the reader may not empathize completely with the self-indulgent Hannah, or with Michael, who, though reliable and honest, has little imagination. Beautifully realized, My Michael, which shows Hannah's need for control even in the title, depicts an immature woman who does not know herself when she joins her life to that of someone else. (4.5 stars) n Mary Whipple
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 12 June 2006
Having read the rave reviews of the books and Amos Oz's work overall, I was disappointed by this book.
Maybe it's because I'm used to a different style of writing but my issue here was that nothing ever happens....
This book is a sometimes tender - sometimes cruel, but mainly sad recounting of a couples' life together, against a backdrop of Israeli history.
According to one of the characters of the book she [the narrator] is a "poetess, except she doesn't write poems", and he's "Her" Michael, but to me they just seem like a couple who have agreed to spend their life together, without ever really knowing each other. Does she love him? Unless my cultural references are very off, I don't think so. She is distant from both her husband and her son has an imaginary / dream world she likes to disappear into every now and again - perhaps in our day she'd simply be referred to a psychologist to help her work through her depression, while in this story she is left to cope on her own, but I'm sorry to say that her story left me cold.