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4.6 out of 5 stars
Mornings in Jenin
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 1 May 2015
This book was a very good read, a thrilling one, and an informative one. Even as a Jordanian Arab having heard - and lived - some of the history that this book narrates through its story, I never actually managed to out together all of these events as one in my head, yet the author managed to connect the major - as well as some of the minor events - of the modern Palestinian history in a coherent, capturing and informative narrative.

The narrative summons the events that the Palestinian refugees went through after the Zionists took over their land, and they even tried to rob them off their narrative, which makes such a well-written novel an important work of historical fiction. The author quoted journalists, books, studies and reports and enhanced her narrative with real events that are well documented. She also managed to add the American aspect of the Palestinian oppression, whether it is the oppressive political support of Israel, the Black community's similarities with the Palestinian refugees, or the oblivious Western public to Palestine, the Arabs, and the Zionist rape of Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan (all mentioned within the narrative in a very coherent and well narrated form), which their taxes fund, and which have stimulated some retaliation elements against the American interests in the region (the author integrates the American embassy in Beirut and its suicide bombing within her narrative).

The characters are full and alive in this book, even while some aren't as detailed as other, the book's characters are colorful and they add to the narrative constructively. With regards to the narrative, it is coherent, not a lot of time-jumps, and even when those occur they are coherent and non-disruptive.

I enjoyed it a lot, and finished it within a couple of days due to the excitement it rose in me.

My takes on the novel were some weaknesses in the narrative here and there - very few, as well as the cramming up of characters and events in some sections in a way that doesn't allow the reader to breath while reading. It is a highly recommended book, maybe similar to the Kite Runner in some aspects, yet definitely not like A Thousand Splendid Suns.

A great read for anyone interested in the modern history of Palestine, as well as anyone interested in developing a sense of humanity against oppression by viewing the oppressed in such a narrative.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The village of Ein Hod in north Palestine, where this novel opens in the 1940s, has been an olive growing community for centuries. The Abulheja family is part of that community which is shattered in 1948 as a consequence of the founding of the state of Israel.

This is a novel, in a particularly volatile setting where two peoples cannot agree on how to share a homeland that both of them claim. This is a novel about the experiences of a family dispossessed, in order to establish:
`A land without a people for a people without a land.'
But it is a novel, not a biographical history, and as a novel it does not succeed completely.

The main character is Amal, a daughter born in the Jenin refugee camp during the 1960s. Amal's knowledge of life in Ein Hod is indirect, but keenly appreciated as part of her heritage. The early part of the novel, about her grandparents and parents, is the strongest part of the story. Characters and situations come to life, the sense of family and cultural continuity is strong. As a consequence the pain felt when the family is displaced and dispossessed in 1948 is clearly understood. The events of 1967 and 1982 reinforce the continuing tragedy for Amal and members of her family.

But, for me, the novel became less engaging after Amal moves to America. Here the novel changes, it seems, into an historical account of events. The characters we've been following become indistinct as events are described rather than experienced. The horror of the situation becomes blunted as it becomes increasingly more impersonal - until towards the end of the story.
In summary, I'm pleased I read this novel even though the subject matter is uncomfortable and the conflict continues.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 7 June 2010
I absolutely loved this book - I had chosen it for a book club read and we all loved it, although using the word "love" to describe a story so tragic may be a little trite. One of the reviews mentioned that the writing was too simplistic - I felt that the story was simply told, but that this simplicity and lack of detailed desription of all the horror made it all the more poignant and credible. There is only one bit right at the end (when you read it you will know what I am referring to!) that was unsatisfying to read as it did not ring true with the rest of the novel, and was not really necessary to add. I finished the book thinking that I had a much clearer understanding of why people would be driven to do some of the extreme things we read about in the papers, and it gave a Palestinian perspective on the troubles in their beautiful country. I also think that a lot of the book was about love and family and humanity. I cannot believe that it is not a world-wide best seller!
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 2 April 2010
I read this book a while ago and was totally entranced and read it quickly because I wanted to know what happened. I know some reviewers don't think much of the literary style but why should that get in the way of this wonderful story. I've ordered multiple copies of this book for my bookshop and I recommend it to customers. For anyone wanting to know about this conflict it gives a perspective the (mainline) media do not report.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 November 2014
Incredibly heart breaking read. Shocking story that should be more widely read and understood. I know this is a novel but that it is based on factual accounts from eye witnesses. The western world should be ashamed of their complacency and complicity in these events, this story has changed the way I think about Israel and Palestine. I hope many more people read it and maybe something might change as a result?
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Beautifully written, I was hooked by the first page. The story of the Abulheja family and their friends is written with such humour and warmth that you feel that you know them personally. The horror of the Israeli invasion and the terror that these people have lived through was something that I wasn't properly aware of before. To my shame, I have to admit that I had no knowlege of the atrocities committed against the Palestinians by the settlers and the Israeli government.

Susan Abulhawa writes with such compassion and understanding that it is impossible not to be drawn to her characters; what particularly impressed me was the humanity in her writing - it is not a simple case of good v bad which a lesser author might have fallen into the trap of - there is a section near the end of the book when Amal is confronted by a young Israeli soldier who presses his gun against her forehead. Abulhawa writes

"The power he holds over life is a staggering burden for so young a man. He knows it and wants it lifted. He is too handsome not to have a girlfriend nervously waiting for his return. He would rather be with her than with his conscience. With his burden or with me."

This is a book I will keep and re-read and save for when my daughter is old enough to read it. This book deserves to be a best seller and should be read widely - not just for its honest account of the middle east but also for it's beauty and as an introduction to the poetry of Khalil Gibran.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Even if you have no prior knowledge of the Palestine/Israeli conflict, Mornings in Jenin offers you the perfect introduction to this complex situation, giving many insights into how the Palestinian people have suffered since El Nakba (The Catastrophe) in 1947. For Jewish people, 1947 was a time of celebration, the creation of the state of Israel, their new homeland; for Palestinians it was a time of mourning, as they were removed from their homes and became refugees. Mornings in Jenin is the first commercial work of fiction written in English which examines a pro-Palestinian viewpoint and opens our eyes to injustices which we, in the West, have been sheltered from and/or have deliberately ignored.

It's a story which spans six decades of the Palestinian Abulheja family, beginning in 1941 when the inhabitants of Ein Hod, a small village east of Haifa, commence the olive harvest. Soon the rural idyll will be rudely interrupted by the bombing raids of Zionists, intent on creating a blank canvas for their new homeland. The Abulheja family are relocated to Jenin, a refugee camp in the West Bank whilst French Jewish artists move into their abandoned village. During the march, Dalia loses her infant son, Ismael who has been snatched by an Israeli soldier. Tragedy upon tragedy are piled upon this family, as Dalia's daughter Amal is permanently scarred by gunfire from an Israeli sniper and her other son, Yousef, leaves the camp to join the PLO. Most of the story focusses on Amal as she moves from Jenin to an orphanage school in Jerusalem, to a college scholarship in America, to Lebanon - always on the move, longing to return to her homeland.

Yes, this is written from a Palestinian perspective but when the author does introduce Jewish characters, they are both human and humane, caught up in a conflict which they don't understand either. Sometimes we Westerners feel guilty of anti-semitism if we even show a smidgen of sympathy for the plight of Palestinians but we must abandon our black and white thinking and see past the military and political posturing to the human cost of war.

Whilst not a perfect novel stylistically, tenses and points of view jump about distractingly, it is an important read as it highlights the humanity which we all share regardless of our politics or religion. It's very readable but also a very distressing novel as it shows a very ugly side to the human race and how we seem doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Perhaps recent events in the Middle East are a hopeful sign of change for the better?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 May 2012
This book is amazing, simply written and with such feeling, I couldn't put it down. Although this is a novel, the timeline is accurate and it is heartbreaking to think this conflict still exists today. Our western media does not portray the real suffering of the Palestinian people and this book gives an insight into their daily frustrations and the lives they are forced to lead. This book had me in tears from start to finish but it will stay with me for a long time, like a good book should!!
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 2010
I rarely read fiction. And I picked up this book simply drawn to it by the cover (UK edition). Having then read the recommendation by Dr Hanan Ashrawi was enough for me to buy the book.

Mornings In Jenin is the product of deep understnading of Palestine that only a writer posessed with the gift of story-telling can craft. It takes you on a 6 decade long journey in the exploration of love: love of one's home, of village, of kith and kin, of culture, of language... love of one's homeland. It shows you in subtle colours the pain and suffering heaped upon a people for so long that the any notion of justice is torn to shreds. And it sings to the listener in the most sobre of sounds the hope and aspirations of generations scarred by violence and brutality.

Above all, in Mornings In Jenin is the testament that the greatest lie ever told was that Palestine was "a land without people for a people without a land".
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 16 March 2015
** Book reviews & more at www.snazzybooks.com **

A strong statement, eh?

Well I feel that it's true, because Mornings in Jenin was, without a doubt, one of the most real, raw and emotional books I have ever read.

The characters, spanning several generations of one family (plus other families too), draw you in so much and you feel like you know them personally by the end of the novel. This is only reinforced by the beautiful writing, which is wonderfully descriptive and emotive, interspersed with some poetry. Although the narrative certainly jumps all over the place with regards to timescale, which I know some people are not a fan of, and this can sometimes be quite confusing, even so it doesn't take long at all to work out what time period you are reading about.

The lives of people growing up and living in Palestine from the 1940's onwards is unimaginable; I can't begin to imagine having to live in constant fear and terror and most of us, thankfully, will never have to experience this. It is incredible how many of them seem to remain so positive in their day to day lives, and this is really very humbling. This book certainly makes you appreciate how easy we have it in the western world.

Sometimes I felt like I couldn't go on reading the book because it was so emotional and, at times, so sad and injust, but I'm glad I kept reading. You can't always bury your head in the sand with these matters and although the characters are fictional the events and places are all too real.

For a good few days after finishing this book I felt quite dazed and I kept thinking about the characters and story - but I'm so so glad I read it!

I feel like Susan Abulhawa could have really made the Palestinians out to be completely innocent in the entire conflict, but characters do awknowledge and discuss the awful situation for Jews after WW2 and the circumstances that led up to the conflict, which is sadly still raging on today. Both sides have reasons to be sympathised with in different ways, but this novel obviously focuses on the lives of the Palestinians who have to deal with losing their homes and, for many, most of their families. I feel that the novel tells it very well and doesn't seem overly preachy or biased.

As I write this review I kind of feel like anything I say about Mornings in Jenin won't do it justice, so all I will say is just give it a go- you won't regret it; it is very sad and poignant at times but it is a really beautiful novel.
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