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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching and emotive
The concept of this book is excellent. From the moment I opened it I felt engaged. `The Attack' comes to mean many things throughout the book. Firstly though, it is the culmination of his wife being found in a local restaurant that has been bombed; her injuries typical of those of a suicide bomber. As a respected surgeon at a hospital in Tel Aviv (and an Israeli Arab)...
Published on 22 July 2007 by SJSmith

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The exact oppostite of 'Swallows'
I'm sure I'm not the first person to consider reading this book after reading The Swallows of Kabul. Well, when I read 'swallows' I felt it to be an outstanding idea, rather sketchily told. I found 'the attack' to be exactly the opposite: the characters have depth and resonance and there's much more background and richness to the storytelling. But that wonderful nugget of...
Published on 21 Mar 2009 by daisyrock


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching and emotive, 22 July 2007
By 
SJSmith (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Attack (Hardcover)
The concept of this book is excellent. From the moment I opened it I felt engaged. `The Attack' comes to mean many things throughout the book. Firstly though, it is the culmination of his wife being found in a local restaurant that has been bombed; her injuries typical of those of a suicide bomber. As a respected surgeon at a hospital in Tel Aviv (and an Israeli Arab) he is stopped frequently on his journeys home and now with this, his life is thrown completely into turmoil. It is revealed that he has played no part in her other life and that Sihem (Dr Amin Jaafari's wife) was not the woman he thought she was, or married.

I initially thought the author was a woman but then realised from searching (it does mention it in the book but I hadn't seen it) is a pseudonym and that Mohammed Moulessehoul is a veteran Algerian army officer. Having written six novels under his real name in Algeria the army then imposed unacceptable conditions and his work became censored. Following a refusal to do this his wife suggested he wrote under her name and this he did until leaving the army.

Throughout the book Amin Jaafari goes through many emotions and journeys. He picks up clues throughout via flashbacks or some new piece of evidence that comes to light from conversations. He journeys towards Bethlehem, stopping of at Jerusalem. He stays in Jerusalem at Kim's brother's house. Kim seems to be his only ally, a fellow Doctor at the same hospital with whom he has been friends with since university. She helps him and goes with him to Jerusalem, then letting his continue on to Bethlehem himself; where he is received as a very unwelcome visitor. He is confused that his wife is praised and revered for what she has done. Unable to come to terms with this he continues speaking with the people who may have been the last to see his wife, as well as those who she confided in.

I felt sad at what Amin Jaafari had to go through to find the truth. It puts a fresh perspective on all the items that have been played through the news over the last however many years. Unless you are unable to empathise you will feel angry and saddened by what you read, as well as full of questions. How could he not know what his wife was doing? What more does he not know about his own family? Who knew what she was doing and why didn't they tell him? The ending of the novel bears a stark resemblance to the prologue and is full of emotion. Again, you should have questions - is this the best for him? He goes through so much in the last few chapters of the novel you wonder how he could carry on.

It is a terrific insight into a culture I only ever see through the eyes of the media. The characters are all highly believable and I felt genuine emotion as I read this novel. I am a hard reader to please and often leave books unfinished; I could see myself reading this novel again in the future. I came across this novel through a book group and without it being chosen for a monthly read I doubt I would ever have known about it. There are a whole host of synonyms I could use to describe it. However, simply put, everything about this novel is brilliant. `The Attack' is really worth a read and then you can find your own reasons why the title has such significance throughout the novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impressive achievement, 9 Sep 2007
By 
HORAK (Zug, Switzerland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Attack (Paperback)
Amin Jaafari is a hard-working and talented surgeon at a busy Tel Aviv hospital, two generations away from his Arab origins. He is wealthy, popular with his Jewish colleagues, and devoted to his wife Sihem. The novel opens with Amin taking charge of the chaos in the emergency room after a suicide bomber attacks a restaurant in the Hakirya district of Tel Aviv, killing 19 people including a group of schoolchildren at a birthday party. Subsequently Amin is stopped and searched four times by Israeli policemen on the way home. He only wakes up to his own misfortune when he learns that Sihem has been killed in the bombing and that her wounds correspond to those found on suicide bombers.
Amin refuses to believe that Sihem could have committed such an act of terror. He expects her to return soon from Kfar Kanna where she is visiting her old grandmother. Disbelief gives way to horror when Sihem's last letter, posted from Bethlehem, turns up in his post box. As a consequence of Sihem's attack Amin's life, ambition, values and friendships disintegrate. He locks himself up in a nightmare of drink and despair in which he reflects on every aspect of his life, nationality and marriage. A Jewish colleague, Kim Yehuda, calls Amin back from the brink. He retraces Sihem's last journey from Tel Aviv to Bethlehem and back again. There Amin is repeatedly beaten up: by the Shin Bet, his Tel Aviv neighbours and Palestinian militants in the West Bank towns of Bethlehem and Jenin that were under siege by the Israeli army. Nevertheless he clings to his belief that as a surgeon his fight consists in recreating life in the place where death has chosen to conduct its manoeuvres.
The Attack uses both suicide bombing and the fate of many Israeli citizens who are of Arab origin. These are the descendants of the Arabs who stayed in the country rather than go into exile at the formation of Israel in 1948. Like Amin Jaafari in the story, they have suffered discrimination and mistreatment but have also prospered, and are now squeezed between an tormented Jewish state and their rebel fellow Arabs in Gaza and on the West Bank.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Perspective, 30 July 2007
By 
Michael J. Law "eurolease" (Teulada Spain) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Attack (Paperback)
I could not put this book down. A disturbing perspective on the division in Arab Israeli society, this chilling tale is told from the perspective of a highly acclaimed Arab doctor living and working in Tel Aviv.Do we ever know what our spouses are really thinking? Can we see inside a loved one's head? The style is sparse but illuminating, the subject matter is at once current, shocking and very thought provoking. Highly recommended.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it !, 25 Oct 2006
By 
sgeoff (North Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Attack (Hardcover)
The Amazon synopsis gives a lot about the story. What can be said here is that this is an outstanding novel, dealing with serious issues within a plotline that has you keen to find out what happens as the main character continues his search for truth. The hopelessness of people living in the Occupied Territories has rarely been so well portrayed, and the story kept me engaged from first line to last. A brilliant book, which I can recommend without reservation.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful topic, 10 Sep 2007
By 
DubaiReader "MaryAnne" (Rowlands Castle, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Attack (Paperback)
As I live in the Middle East I am drawn to this type of book to aid my understanding of some of the conflicts and to understand the human element; the cause and effect of events in this area.

The central character, Dr Amin Jaafie, is a leading surgeon at Tel Aviv's main hospital. He uses his skills to repair the damage caused by the conflict surrounding him and to keep himself distanced from involvement in events. Unfortunately his wife holds much more extreme views and blows herself up in a full restaurant.
As Jaafie is forced to confront this fact he starts to search for reasons why and clues that he has missed along the way.
This takes us all on an eye-opening journey into Bethlehem and Jerusalem, where his views and pacifism place him on the 'wrong side'.

I don't think I'd say I 'enjoyed' it, it's not a fun topic, after all, but I thought it was fascinating and illuminating.
I felt the repetition of parts of the prologue at the end, was excellent and I read the book with enthusiasm.

Peter Sutcliffe's wife had no clue that he was the Yorkshire Ripper, so I guess it would be possible that Sihem covered her tracks so effectively. It bothered me though that she carried the attack out on a restaurant full of children - how does that help the cause?

Unlike 'The Swallows of Kabul', this book was set in Israel rather than Afghanistan. I found that fascinating as I've recently read 'When the Bulbul Stopped Singing' - Diary of the siege of Ramalla (Palestine) in 2002 and 'When I lived in Modern Times' by Linda Grant - A Jew travels to Palestine after WWII to begin a new life.

My one complaint with the book may be down to the translation - I never felt that Jaafie seemed quite angry, grief-stricken or confused enough, he didn't drag me through his emotions alongside him. I was always a bit detached, an onlooker.
So 4 stars rather than 5.
Will certainly read more by this author - my little ex-pat library has just got 'Sirens of Baghdad' in too and I intend to read that soon.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moving and engrossing, 28 Jun 2011
By 
Julia Flyte - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Attack (Paperback)
Amin Jaafie is an Israeli Arab and non-practising Muslim who works as a surgeon in Tel Aviv. He is devoted to his wife Sihem and life is good. Until one day a suicide bomber blows up a restaurant - killing 19 people including many children - and all the evidence suggests that his wife is the perpetrator. As Jaafie moves through denial to grief, confusion and anger, he is determined to understand what could have driven his wife to do such a thing. His quest will take him around Israel and the West Bank, allowing us the reader to see the different sides of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

This is a gripping book which is hard to put down. You feel Jaafie's emotions throughout. Like Justin in The Constant Gardener, his need to understand a side of his wife that he didn't previously know about will lead him into dangerous situations.

While there were occasional clunky notes which are probably down to the translation, this is overall a moving and engrossing read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful book, 8 Jun 2011
By 
Boof (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Attack (Paperback)
In three words: Emotive, touching, shocking.

Dr Amin Jaafari is an Israeli Arab. He has put himself through medical school and now works in a Tel Aviv hospital as a surgeon. He has a nice home in a nice part of the city, he and his wife Sihem attend dinner parties with their Israeli friends and are happy.

When a suicide bomber strikes in a crowded restaurant in Tel Aviv killing 19 people, including eleven children at a birthday party, the hospital is put on high alert and it's all hands to the deck. Amin finally goes home exhausted to his wife, and assumes that her absense means that she is still with her Auntie in Nazareth. When Amin is woken only a few hours later by the police to tell him that his wife was killed in the blast and is suspected of being the suicide bomber, Amin's life as he knows it is turned upside down....

The Attack opens with literally that - an attack. The confusion, the silence; it all seems to happen in slow motion and we are no more clued up than those in amongst the devastation: The opening chapter is incredibly powerful.

Having lived in Israel back in the early-mid nineties I am drawn to books like this. The media, righly so, reports on the happenings in Israel as they happen but what we don't see is what goes on behind the scenes, and after the worlds cameras have left: What we don't see is the shattering devastation that affects everyone else. The victims of the bombs, their families and friends, the survivors, but also those of the relatives of the suicide bomber whose lives will never be the same again either. The author, in my opinion, did a good job as putting both sides of the story across. I say "good" job as I feel that it is slightly weighted in favour of the Arab view point but let's not forget where the author is from. Yasmina Khadra is the nom de plume for former Algerian officer Mohammed Moulessehoul and I feel (as the blurb on the back of the book states) he "rarely sits in judgement". Despite the book starting with the killing of 19 Israelis, the book really centres around the suicide bomber, Sihem, and what drove a wealthy, priveledged wife of a well respected surgeon to carry out such a act.

Amin Jaafari, unable to believe what has happened or why, sets out on a journey to make sense of what he can't believe is true and in doing this we are also taken on a journey of discovery with him which leads us through Bethlehem and Nazareth and the camps in Jenin as Sihems story unfolds. What Khadra has done is allowed us to see the other side of what gets reported - the anguish and disbelief felt by Amin as he slowly unravels a side of Sihem he didn't know about:

"There must have been a moment, there must have been a sign, and I want to remember it, don't you understand? I have to remember it. I have no other choice. Since I got that letter I've been constantly rooting around in my memories, trying to find the right one. Whether I'm asleep or awake, it's all I think about. I've passed everything in review, from the most unforgettable moments to the least fathomable words and the vaguest gestures; nothing. And this blank spot is driving me crazy. You can't imagine how much it tortures me, Kim. I can't go on like this, pursuing it and suffering it at the same time."

While all the time going through the mental torture that he does, Amin is also subjected to abuse from those he used to live amongst:

"Is that how people say thank you, you dirty Arab? "

"Look at the house you live in you son of a bitch. What more do you have to have before you learn to say thanks?"

As the story moves along, it is hard not to see things from both perspectives as I believe that Kharda has done a great job of allowing us this privelidge and I found my emotions swinging between the two sides with regularity: the high passions, the feelings of utter helplessness, the no hope for the future, the tit-for-tat of both sides.

If you've ever wondered what happens after the cameras stop rolling then read this book: it's a great insight into how this clash of civilisations continues to roll. Just don't look for answers; you won't find them here.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Anguish..., 8 Jan 2011
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Attack (Paperback)
An Algerian friend gently suggested that I update my list of Algerian writers, from Camus and Roy, to an "Algerian du socle," to turn Le Pen's formulation on its head, and proposed this book by Khadra. And what a wonderful suggestion it was.

Khadra has also written books on other touchstones of the current era: Iraq and Afghanistan. "The Attack" however addresses the core issue: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His novel (he writes under a female nom de plume) is fast-paced, maintains high dramatic tension, which is difficult to set down, even to refill your coffee. He weaves so many essential elements of the Israeli Dilemma into this one novel: a successful Arab-Israeli surgeon, a female suicide bomber, sympathetic and humane Jewish police officials, the humiliation of the dispossessed, eloquent statement of the Palestinian positions and the inevitable "logic of war," reprisals, and counter-reprisals. Elements of the novel transcend its time and place, and address the secrets and betrayals of conjugal life, as well as a spiral descent into depression.

Dr. Amin Jaafari is the Arab-Israeli surgeon, having risen into a comfortable middle-class existence in Tel Aviv, from his Bedouin origins in only two generations. He manages to deal with the discrimination all such Arab-Israelis experience. As other reviewers have revealed, fairly early in the novel he is devastated when he learns that it was his wife who was the suicide bomber who killed numerous Israelis, including children at a birthday party. Much of the novel involves his search for the reasons why she did it. Did she reveal clues to her destiny that he did not see? In his search he is aided by a Jewish female doctor, Dr. Kim Yehuda. Khadra has haunting evocative passages on the beauty of the so fought over Israeli-Palestinian landscape. In other sections he aptly describes the narrow mindedness and meanness of people, both in their official capacities, as well as not.

In terms of weaknesses, I felt that Khadra did not provide a plausible reason for the actions of Amin's wife, Sihem. Furthermore, descriptions of Jaafari's visit, and imprisonment at Jenin stretched credulity. But it is hard to definitely state the limits of the possible given the corrosive effects of a brutal occupation on the occupiers, as well as the occupied.

Overall though, a wonderful book which weaves many of the essential elements of the Palestinian-Israeli tragedy into a tale which illuminates the elements of this heart-breaking "clash of civilizations."

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on December 22, 2008)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the mind of a suicide bomber, 9 Sep 2013
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Attack (Paperback)
Almost every day in some part of the world, the media will report a suicide bombing with people killed and many more maimed and seriously injured. This is a searing novel about a person who becomes a suicide bomber, their motivation and the effect that it has on the bomber's nearest and dearest. The author, writing under a pseudonym, is a former Algerian army officer and so knows what he is talking about. Now resident in France, he used his wife's name to avoid submitting his earlier manuscripts to the military censors.

The narrator, Amin Jaafarie, an Israeli Bedouin surgeon, is caught up in a nearby suicide bombing of a restaurant, "I don't remember hearing an explosion. A hissing sound, maybe, like tearing fabric, but I'm not certain". Highly professional and respected, he is happily married, mixes in fashionable circles and travels widely. He is a shining example of integration and, as such, is open to criticism from Arab and Jew.

In the investigation that follows, Jaafarie learns that the bomber is thought to be his wife, Sihem. The surgeon struggles to come to terms with what has happened, when and how she became radicalised, and whether he had any opportunity to convince her to adopt an alternative path. Above all, Jaafarie feels betrayed and seeks to find the answers to these and other questions. How can the woman he loved so much have had such intense hatred? What led her to turn away from him and their seemingly perfect life together to kill herself and others? Above all, could he have stopped her?

In this remarkable book, beautifully translated from the original French by John Cullen, we begin to understand the reasons behind suicide bombings, and hear the perspectives of the police and security bodies, the militants and their religious supporters and the doctors and nurses who, literally, have to pick up the pieces, "The only battle I believe in," Jaafarie says, "is the battle the surgeon fights, which consists in recreating life in the place where death has chosen to conduct its manoeuvres."

It transpires that Sihem was in Bethlehem in the days before she set off her bomb and not visiting her grandmother near Nazareth as her husband had thought. This sets Jaafarie on a physical and emotional journey that takes him to Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jenin as he seeks to talk with the people who apparently knew his wife better than him. The translated descriptions are forcefully presented. In Bethlehem, for example, "Leaning on canes, with kaffiyehs on their heads and faded vests under their open jackets, emaciated old men are daydreaming in front of their houses, some sitting on stools, others on steps. They gaze into the distance and seem to listen to nothing but their memories, impregnable in their silence and undisturbed by the mighty racket of the urchins around them, squabbling at the top of their voices".

Jaafarie constantly replays conversations with his wife to see whether there was anything that she did or said that, in retrospect, might have alerted him and, perhaps, allowed him to intervene, save his wife and marriage, and prevent the carnage. How could Sihem, a non-practicing Moslem like him, change so much without his knowledge? Why did he not realise earlier that he was "the serviceable Arab par excellence who's honored wherever he goes, who gets invited to fancy parties by people who want to show how tolerant and considerate they are?"

In the course of his investigation, Jaafarie realises that he must look within his extended family to find the truth and he puts himself in extreme danger by trying to contact the leaders of militant organisations who, not unnaturally, believe he may be tracked byShin Bet. Crucially, when the meeting eventually takes place he finds himself speaking to an articulate and passionate individual, and not the thug with a gun that the media and many other novels portray.

He is told, "Your wife chose her side. The happiness you offered her smelled of decay. It repulsed her, you get it? She didn't want your happiness. She couldn't work on her suntan while her people were bent under the Zionist yoke". Later the same person tells him, "No one joins our ranks for the pleasure of it, Doctor. All the young men you've seen, the ones with slingshots as well as the ones with rocket launchers, loathe war unspeakably. Because every day, enemy fire carries off one of them. They'd like to be respectable, too; they'd like to be surgeons or pop singers or film actors, ride around in fine cars and live their dreams every day. The problem, Doctor, is that other people deny them those dreams. Other people are trying to confine them to ghettos until they are trapped in them for good. And that's the reason why they prefer to die. When dreams are turned away, death becomes the ultimate salvation. Sihem understood this, Doctor. You must respect her choice and let her rest in peace".

The surgeon's increasing sense of futility eventually turns to outrage when he sees what is happening in Jenin, where fighting continues in the large Palestinian refugee camp. Jaafarie is, in turn, set upon by Arabs and Israelis alike. Despite this, he clings to his professionalism and his humanity. Jaafari's life has been one of compromise, accommodation and peacemaking. The novel is a passionate cry for peace and a presentation of Palestinian frustration and fury that can no longer be ignored by the individual or the outside world.

The author, through Jaafarie, focuses on the Arabs, and their descendants, who did not go into exile in 1948 when the State of Israel came into being. Although discriminated against and mistreated, they have prospered but are now mistrusted by Israelis and by Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank. At one stage, the Israeli army bulldozes the house of Amin's great-uncle as a reprisal for another suicide bombing. In response, Jaafarie's cousin, Faten, goes off to commit an act of terror and achieve martyrdom. The cycle of violence continues.

This is a searing, heart-felt and important book, at times mind-numbingly shocking, at other times incredibly moving. It is always believable and it forces the reader to think at what goes on behind the media headlines.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good., 2 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Attack (Paperback)
A superbly written novel that brings you an interesting insight into the Arab Isreali conflict and at the heart of the novel is a strong plot, well written.
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The Attack
The Attack by Yasmina Khadra (Hardcover - 6 July 2006)
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