A Palestine Affair Paperback – 9 Jan 2007
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A story that tautens the sinuous strands of the period into a lethal knot. --New York Times Book Review
Like the best of historical fiction, Wilson's story is placed in an imagined past, but is really happening right now. --The Washington Post Book World
A Palestine Affair is hard to put down... (It) echoes its modernist predecessors: Forster's A Passage to India, Conrad's The Secret Agent, and James' The Princess Casamassima. --San Francisco Chronicle
About the Author
Jonathan Wilson is a Londoner, now living in America. His other fiction include Schoom and, from Five Leaves, The Hiding Room and the short story collection An Ambulance is on the Way. He has written a book on Chagall and is currently writing a book on football.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Despite this though, The Palestine affair, is still an interesting and exciting mixture of three part love affair, espionage thriller, and murder mystery, using the history of Jews, Arabs and the English occupation of Palestine as a vivid backdrop - there is no doubt that Wilson has an immense passion and cultural understanding of this part of the world and it shows in his work. And like the artist Mark Bloomberg, Wilson writes as though he is painting a scene, and he really succeeds in bringing the sounds, smells and gorgeous visual imagery of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas to life, just Mark tries to do in his paintings. Some of the descriptions of the desert are stunning, lushly detailed and incredibly cinematic - just beautiful to read.
This story also does a good job in evoking the kinds of troubles and religious conflicts that were facing Palestine at the time of the British occupation, and it does a fine job showing the "culture clash" between the Jews, Arabs and the occupying British, and the British's almost flippant attitude towards the different cultures of the area. You can see how many of today's troubles between the Israelis and the Palestinians have been festering for years and also how they both seemed to seethe under British rule. If you really want to have a cultural escape and by educated about this part of the world, you should read this book. But The Palestine Affair also works as a good, solid piece of work and a first rate literary thriller.
A good read nonetheless.
The year is 1924, and Wilson draws an excellent portrait of the clash of three cultures--Jews, Arabs and British--with some Americans thrown in as well. I was fascinated at how the characters are all affected by World War I, not often a period that modern novelists dare to tackle. The writing is crisp and the narrative involving. We feel the agonizing sweat of a Middle East summer, the creak of the gear shift automobiles climbing up to Jerusalem or down to Jericho, the anguish of an artist who has clearly lost whatever it is that he thought he had that made him great, and we get to peer into the minds of a number of very well-realized characters. The most appealing one for me was British Jew and Jerusalem police officer, Robert Kirsch. I was suprised at how much I began to understand this man when I am used to books where British officers are cast in a most unforgiving light. I was left with the impression that this summer of 1924 was like looking into a crystal ball of what was to come for the next 25 years as the state of Israel was forming. In fact, it left me nostalgic in the way that stories do when you, the reader, know you can predict the future of these characters because you know what happens next...
I would like to use this book in a book club that I run at my synagogue and I am sure the group would be able to get a good discussion going about it.
The novel opens with a murder. This is, after all, a historical mystery. Artist Mark Bloom, a new arrival to Jerusalem, walks into his garden one night, and a man, dressed in a djellaba and kaffiyeh, stumbles toward him and falls into his arms. It turns out that the victim was an Orthodox Jew, not an Arab, who had been beaten and stabbed to death. The violent incident stirs up disturbing feelings in Mark which bring back memories of the battlefield.
Bloom, a nonobservant British Jew and his American wife, Joyce, came to Palestine because the artist had been commissioned by a Zionist organization to paint "Life Under Reconstruction Conditions. Progress. Enterprise. Development." He perishes at the thought. Bloom had just bombed at his last exhibit in London and needs the money. He is depressed, but had been self-involved, withdrawn and depressed for years, long before the recent death of his mother. "The forty-five-year-old mummy's boy," believes, "love had been stolen away by death." Joyce cannot be a happy woman, nor theirs a happy marriage. Right? She had immersed herself in the Zionist cause while in England, and is looking forward to participating in the movement, which has so inspired her, now that she is in Palestine.
Captain Robert Kirsch, a Jewish detective, is assigned to investigate the crime. As such, he enters the Blooms' life. Mark becomes more withdrawn as the investigation progresses. Joyce and Robert fall passionately in love. Mark can't blame the neglected Joyce, but is jealous anyway. Meanwhile both Arabs and Jews seem content to be rid of the dead man, who was rumored to be having an affair with an Arab youth. As Robert gets closer to finding the killer, his own government sabotages his progress, in order to keep the peace. Riots could easily start if the murderer is discovered to be either Arab or Jew.
Wilson writes a tight, complex tale. His character development is superb. Murder, politics, sex, history and the world of art - nothing remotely boring here. The author himself paints such a vivid portrait of Jerusalem, and the surrounding area, that it is easily visualized in the mind's eye. An excellent read! A terrific mystery...and much more.