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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story of Isaac
It seems some members of London's Orthodox Jewish community didn't like The Marrying of Chani Kaufman. I'm guessing they weren't meant to.

This is a (mostly) very funny novel that is, literally, about the marriage of Chani Kaufman to her approved fiancé Baruch Levy. Chani is excited about the wedding but in fear of the wedding night. She has led a...
Published 13 months ago by MisterHobgoblin

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If you think you have understood the Orthodox Jewish community from this book, you are quite mistaken
Finally read this book. What a disappointment. The writing is not particularly sophisticated, which I can handle, although I was surprised to see the Man Booker people thought it was worthy of the longlist.

But the important point: I find it interesting that most of the reviews are positive. But looking through them they seem to be from people (Jews or...
Published 1 month ago by Deborah


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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story of Isaac, 15 Aug 2013
By 
MisterHobgoblin (Melbourne) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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It seems some members of London's Orthodox Jewish community didn't like The Marrying of Chani Kaufman. I'm guessing they weren't meant to.

This is a (mostly) very funny novel that is, literally, about the marriage of Chani Kaufman to her approved fiancé Baruch Levy. Chani is excited about the wedding but in fear of the wedding night. She has led a sheltered life, the daughter of a Rabbi in a strict Orthodox community. No television; no boys; no trendy clothes; no university.

The novel then pans back and we see how Chani came to be getting married; we see into the lives of her family and the Levys; we see into the life of Baruch's best friend Avromi and his family - and his father just happens to be the rabbi who is going to officiate at Chani and Baruch's wedding.

What we find does not make for happy reading. There are layers of ritual - depicted by Eve Harris as pointless and even damaging. There is denial of reality. There is hypocrisy. And overwhelmingly, there is sweet food. Life is a constant and arduous preparation for the Sabbath, the day the Jewish community will be busily resting. Everything is a constant rush to be ready for the start of Sabbath, the moment at which all tools must be downed, all activities ceased, and everyone will have fun. Yes, through gritted teeth, they *will* have fun.

Eve Harris portrays a community leading dull lives, plenty of privations, and generally levels of tat and decay. Plus very sweet food. Nothing seems to be new and shiny apart from the honey glaze on assorted cakes. Even the wealthy Levys seem to have a Spartan quality to their palatal, leather-suited living spaces. There is an eternal feel to their world. This, of course, turns out to be a bit of a sham. It seems that many of the ultra-pious couples are denying their own children the fun that they themselves had enjoyed in more debauched times. Like in the story of Isaac, they are willing to sacrifice their children on the altar of a guilty past.

The story is not unfamiliar. Fans of Fiddler on the Roof will recognise many of the set plays. What sets The Marrying of Chani Kaufman apart is the wit. Eve Harris has a talent for pithy one liners; piercingly sarcastic lines and put downs. Obviously, Ms Harris has a particular viewpoint that colours everything she writes, but she does it so well. Her characters may seem to be cartoony stereotypes, but they are endearing and thoughtful. They are allowed conflicting emotions, frailties. And there are real questions posed by this racial group that chooses a life of isolation and separation from mainstream society. Would London be as accommodating if it were a different religious or racial group seeking to live in such an enclave?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, thought-provoking and an excellent read, 31 Aug 2014
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Above all, an excellent read, with believable characters leading believable lives and with whom you sympathised. So good to read a book that is not based on the chase for money, fame and Prince Charming - unlike the standard chicklit heroine ending up with the rich, handsome rockstar. It reminded me of Vickram Seth's 'A Suitable Boy'. I can see why some of the Jewish readers would dislike the book and it does seem rather ambitious for an outsider to write about a very private community, but I thought that Eve Harris did a good job of sharing the spirituality and sense of community with the readers as well as detailing some of the less appealing aspects. I should say, less appealing to those of us who stand outside them; I imagine that all cultures have elements that appear unpleasant to others. There is certainly plenty to despise in today's 'free' world. So, in the end, a well written, fascinating and thought-provoking book.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An education wrapped up in a fascinating Jewish wedding story, 5 Oct 2013
By 
K. J. Noyes "Katy Noyes" (Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Marrying of Chani Kaufman (Paperback)
4.5 stars.

A read I couldn't resist, as a secular Jew who knows nothing of my cultural heritage.

I wasn't at all disappointed. I can see some very critical reviews of this but I loved it. It's a real education into a hidden world for those not of the community.

19-year-old Jewish girl Chani is about to marry Baruch, another observant Jew from London. We see their courtship, their family lives, their customs. And through the Rabbi's wife, Rivka, who is teaching Chani the wifely duties, we see another generation's perspective and young life and how marriage to a Rabbi changes her life.

I found it a real eye-opener. I really appreciated just how dedicated the Jewish people are, constantly, in everything they do, to their beliefs. I loved the insight into the customs (ritual baths, wigs, not touching until marriage).

The wedding bookends worked well, with Chani's wedding returned to again with more knowledge of the trials of her courtship and fleshing out of her character and that of her groom. It helped to complete the picture having Baruch's voice as part of the novel, a young man struggling to follow traditions but also to fit them into his more modern world.

Very good book, with a highly useful glossary of Hebrew-English terminology at the back that I referred to constantly.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If you think you have understood the Orthodox Jewish community from this book, you are quite mistaken, 27 July 2014
This review is from: The Marrying of Chani Kaufman (Paperback)
Finally read this book. What a disappointment. The writing is not particularly sophisticated, which I can handle, although I was surprised to see the Man Booker people thought it was worthy of the longlist.

But the important point: I find it interesting that most of the reviews are positive. But looking through them they seem to be from people (Jews or otherwise) who have had no exposure to orthodox Jews, and are grateful for the book having "opened a window on this closed community". I am sorry to say that if you read this book and think you got an accurate picture of the community, you are quite mistaken. (I write as a member of the orthodox Jewish community of Hendon.) Many of the practices and rituals described are partially accurate, and there is a basis in truth. But it is riddled with inaccuracies, some subtle but many so obvious it is quite clear they are figments of the author's imagination. It is being charitable to say that she has been lax in her research. One year's teaching in a Jewish secondary school hardly qualifies her as an expert on our community's intimate practices. And the crude stereotypes. Why is there not one happy, contented Jewish character?

Please don't think you have come away with an accurate understanding of what everyday life is really like for the people you see on the streets of Golders Green, Hendon, Stamford Hill, Prestwich (Manchester) and Bensham (Gateshead). If you do, then like the author you are quite mistaken.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Charedi Jew's Response, 27 April 2014
By 
K. G. Keet (Gateshead, UK) - See all my reviews
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I am utterly dismayed that so many people read this book and feel that it has given them an insight in to the world of Charedi Judaism.

The book depicts this community as a dirty, sweaty miserable bunch of people who feel fettered by the traditions that bind them. There was not one character who displayed real knowledge of Jewish wisdom, not one character who was motivated by Jewish faith in it's genuine guise, and not one character who was actually HAPPY! The author, an outsider to this world, has created characters who are secular in mindset, clothed them in drab, frumpy wigs and costumes she perceives as the norm (insulting and inaccurate), spattered their dialogue with 'Baruch Hashem's' and so on, and propped them up for the unknowing reader as Torah Jews. Basically, if she placed her secular self in this world, with her exceedingly superficial knowledge, this is how she would feel. But it is not how the real people of this world feel! In fact, most feel fulfilled, most are living lives rich with meaning and purpose, even, believe it or not, enhanced by their large families! Most feel that freedom only comes with adherence to Torah Judaism, and would see the Rebbetzin's final actions are in fact a descent FROM freedom. I know this to be true because this is my life and this is how I feel. Eve Harris just doesn't have a clue.
And why does she feel the need to comment on the size of every female character's bottom? She sees herself as a feminist I'm sure, but her continued observations about the bodies' of these women seems almost misogynistic at times. Or perhaps this animosity is only reserved for overweight religious women.
She also makes myriad mistakes about Jewish Law, and I feel I must underline the most outrageous ones as it incenses me to think that people might believe these to be true:
1) A marriage does not have to be consummated on the first night.
2) The Sheva Brachot are not to keep the couple apart - they are a series of festive meals to celebrate with the couple and shower them with blessing. The couple are in fact supposed not to work during these days, and must spend time together celebrating, and they share the same bedroom, so clearly this is a ridiculous claim.
3) The bride and groom are taught before their marriage exactly what sex involves. Chani and Baruch's wonderings about what they are supposed to do is entirely imaginary. Harris clearly came to her own conclusions about this without researching what is actually taught in the one-to-one classes that brides and grooms attend.
4) The use of musical instruments is forbidden on the Sabbath - this is pretty basic so I don't know how Harris came to depict a synagogue full of supposedly religious people playing instruments on the Sabbath. Such a glaring error emphasizes Harris' utter ignorance.
There are many many more mistakes - see the other reviews written by Orthodox people on this site.

Harris clearly despises religious Jews (who would include a mention of stone throwing in a definition of Hassidim? Is this a fundamental of Chaissidic Judaism? Would anyone dare to mention Islamic terrorisism in defining a major stream of Islam? [the first part of the definition is anyway inaccurate - she has confused Chassidism with the Luthuanian tradition]) but her apparent fascination with the sex lives of Charedi Jews propelled her to set herself up as an authority on this community and produce this book.

If you are genuinely interested in learning about the Torah approach to relationships, read 'The Magic Touch' by Gila Manolson, an easy but comprehensive read. If you are interested in learning about Jewish philosophy, read 'The Thinking Jewish Teenager's Guide to Life' by Akiva Tatz. If you would like to know about Jewish life and faith, read 'The Committed Life' by Esther Jungreis.

Do not read The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, it is nonsense.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars marrying of chani, 18 Dec 2013
By 
C. Behan - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Marrying of Chani Kaufman (Paperback)
As a girl born and brought up between Hendon and Golders Green, I felt at home immediately on opening the first page. The characters are very well-rounded and believable. I was totally gripped from the first page and couldn't put it down. Another book soon, please.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Predictable arranged-marriage soap opera, 1 Dec 2013
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This book tells the story of several interconnected women in an orthodox London Jewish community, through a combination of direct narrative and flashbacks. The eponymous subject of the book is a sheltered but, we are told, independent-minded, marriageable woman who is courted by a likewise sheltered rabbinical student. We are also told the back-story of the community rabbi and, in more detail, that of his wife.

For a book based on characters rather than events, it offers remarkably little emotional insight. A young, educated liberal/secular Jewish couple become the Rabbi and Rebbitzen of an orthodox community, but the book does not provide the slightest internal investigation of this extraordinary transformation. Chani Kaufman is described as having an unconventional streak, but the author does not illustrate this convincingly. The villain, the interfering mother-in law, is incongruously restrained and ineffective at even stalling the marriage. Throughout the book the prose is hackneyed and often cringeworthy.

This book also has a message, namely that people, and particularly women, will not be happy if they have children. This is illustrated relentlessly in the adult characters' back stories, in the thoughts of the female characters and in the detrimental effect young children have on the characters' relationships. My (future) progeny will be relieved to hear that I was not persuaded.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orthodox jewry in North London, 25 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Marrying of Chani Kaufman (Paperback)
I lived for 30 years in North London, and drove through many of the streets and neighbourhoods which feature
in this novel. I was completely ignorant of the lives lived by the orthodox Jewish community even though I often saw the men and women in Golders Green and Hendon. This book lifted the veil, I found it absolutely fascinating. Recommend it most highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful book, 24 Nov 2013
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I really enjoyed this book. Serious yet with a light touch, it reveals the hidden world of the Hasidics in an interesting way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Was hoping for more, 19 Aug 2013
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Enjoyed it but not as good as all the hype around it wish there had been one more chapter felt like it just stopped!
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The Marrying of Chani Kaufman
The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris (Paperback - 5 Aug 2013)
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