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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 3 March 2014
I thought, 4 stars or 5? There were things I liked less, but overall, what I loved more won out... whatI Like d less was maybe the more 'poetic' bits and the migraines... but overall, I loved the book for its portrayal of the Orthodox community with humour but never with any hint of despising, belittling, being too clever - Alderman writes of the community she grew up in with affection. I enjoyed the details of the rituals surrounding death and everyday life, marriage, how you live and what's expected. She describes it as how she left the Orthodox, but she also describes it with the knowledge of an insider, and it is a pleasure to read. It also happens to chime with my novels (on published, one on its way) which describe the inside of Christian fundamentalism with a definite critique but without rancour, and that of course gave me the pleasure of feeling a bit of a younger sister (in terms of literary output)!

I'd recommend Disobedience to anyone who enjoys a thoughtful, literary, read, who enjoys learning about the inside of cultures different to their own, who wants to understand where other people are 'coming from', who is interested in the phenomenon of religion/culture and how it can rule your life. It is warm and funny with lots of serious points and some great portraits.
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on 5 June 2017
brilliant
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 August 2017
I thoroughly enjoyed this unusual novel. It's set largely in an orthodox Jewish community in Hendon. Ronit, a successful financial analyst in New York, who has rejected her strict Jewish background, returns there when her father, a much-admired Rav (that is, spiritual leader of the synagogue, but also an admired Jewish scholar) dies. Her rejection of the spiritual and moral codes of her community - the 'Disobedience' of the title - makes waves when she returns, but there is a personal dynamic to this too, in her reunion with Dovid and Esti, now a married couple but one-time childhood friends of Ronit. Dovid is, in addition, the Rav's nephew (and therefore Ronit's cousin) and now a Rabbi himself. As the book progresses, these three people find out more about themselves and their renewed relationship and, while there are difficulties along the way, they all gain from this.

There are two 'voices' in the book, that of the author, who writes about Dovid and Esti, the Rav, other community members and the events that occur (it is a very cleverly-crafted novel from the point of view of plot) and Ronit's, a first-person narrative ; and they are distinguished by different type-faces. The chapters are usually (possibly always - I haven't checked) introduced by a brief reflection on Jewish ritual, the Jewish view of man's relationship to God, aspects of the Torah or Jewish custom and suchlike. I am not Jewish, but I found these reflections
extremely interesting ; I think they would be to anyone ; and they are not there as interludes, they have subtle connections to the events and themes of the novel. Esti, Dovid and Ronit are all extremely sympathetic characters- it is very easy to like them - and their story, of their shared past and what happens with the Rav's death and Ronit's largely unwelcome reappearance is a compelling one. The book moves towards a powerful and very effective conclusion in which one of the three plays a surprising and very moving role.

It is fair to say that, while this novel is very Jewish, and very interesting for that, it goes far beyond the preoccupations of one very tradition-bound community. The key themes are universal - how we behave towards other people, how we come to accept human differences which we may at first find difficult, how we learn about ourselves ; they are the key themes of very many novels. In this case, paradoxically, the complacency of the inward-looking, exclusive Hendon Jewish community provides an excellent locus for very involving, very human thoughts
, feelings, responses and behaviours. The book is generally very literately but lightly written, easy and compelling to read and both very enjoyable and very thought-provoking.
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on 13 March 2014
I read this after having heard Naomi on R4, and I wasn't disappointed. My main gripe is that it felt quite short - I have a lot of interest in other cultures that lie immediately alongside but rarely intersect my own, and I would have liked the author to have explored more around the actual fulfilment, as adult women with kids, of the girls that used to come top in science at school. I'd also liked to have found out more from Dovid's side (as a figure of male religious authority) regarding the reconciliation of Orthodox beliefs with contemporary non-Jewish social mores, given that the character said 'Excellent!' approvingly when Ronit confessed that she'd made something up just piss someone off. I know that it's a very insular community, but it can't be entirely hermetically sealed from a cultural perspective.

Also, any sympathy I had for the main protagonist was lost pretty much immediately after something that occurs towards the end - I won't say anything more, but I am curious whether I took this the way that it was intended.
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on 12 May 2013
I saw this book after reading 'The Innocents' by Francesca Segal and after reading the write up and reviews I added it to my Wish List for the future.

This is a book written from two perspectives, Robot's and Esti's, two women born into the same Hendon Orthodox Jewish community but one has left and one has stayed. Without giving away anything from the plot there is something that holds them together from their shared pasts.

Ronit's father, the Rav has recently died and Ronit is returning from New York to sort out his papers and close up the home. Ronit is successful in her chosen field as a Corporate financial analyst but having just come out of an affair with her married boss, the trip to London, though unwelcome, gives her a little breathing space.

The story takes us into the closeted world of her old community, the perceived claustrophobia and the feelings of being watched, judged and found to be lacking. Ronit in her status as an unmarried woman is seen as something of a half person; not fully matured and though it is not mentioned I had the impression she was seen as a disappointment to her late father's memory.

This is one of those books where you, the reader is taken into other people's lives and given a snap shot of their circumstances and events and this reminded me of Anne Tyler. Naomi Alderman doesn't write in a dramatic style, even the dramatic moments in this book are played down but that is what I enjoyed about this, she has a way of writing that seemed quite beautiful, especially in her description of the Shabbat preparations.

I shall be reading her other books at some point in the future.
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on 31 August 2012
I read this book recently, a few years after it came out, when I moved to an area with a strong, longstanding Orthodox Jewish community close by. Not being Jewish myself, I wanted to find out more about this community, and this book didn't disappoint. It's really interesting & informative (in terms of finding out about a culture one may know little about). It's a novel by Naomi Alderman who is an Orthodox Jew herself and even though remains part of her Orthodox Jewish community in NW London (if I understand correctly), she has retained a critical & interesting 'distance' from it, enough to make her able to write this book. I think the book caused a stir in the community when it first came out as it deals with difficult subjects such as homosexuality and rebelling against a strictly religious, culturally insulated way of life.

I enjoyed 'Disobedience' as a 'window' into this community, which as I said I knew little about. The story has to do with the difficulties and challenges arising from growing up in a fairly inward-looking community, with strong boundaries separating it from the surrounding world. It's the story of Ronit, a Rabbi's daughter, who after growing up in a NW London Orthodox Jewish Community, rebelled & moved to NY City, leading a life as far removed from her roots as possible. The novel is about the time her father, the Rabbi, dies, with various repercussions in the community, and for Ronit herself who returns to her childhood home, only to find that a lot she thought she had left behind are in fact still struggles she has to deal with.

The plot is fairly conventional and doesn't hold many surprises (in terms of how the novel is structured). It's not spectacular as a literary text, but is a good, easy, quick read, sad & thoughtful at times, quite funny at others (particularly when describing the gossipy, easily shocked older women of the community; found in every single community over the world, I'm sure).
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on 9 February 2013
Having actually grown up in Hendon, rebelled, gone away and come back, I was really looking forward into an insight into 'my world', sadly, this book could not be further from the truth. Shallow, repetitive sterotypes fill the pages, with no respect for the choices the characters have made other than the acknowledged hero, Ronit. It was almost offensive in the lack of understanding of the community, and the sad unappreciation of the variety of lifestyles and opinions that thrive in this place. I finished the book feeling sorry that the author had drawn on what seemed to be a teenaged memory, coloured by anger and personal angst, rather than trying to understand and paint a portrait of a community that is vibrant, surprisingly inclusive and exceptionally warm and non judgemental. The most ridiculous scene where Esti is forced to travel to Camden to buy a pregnancy test in private on a Friday afternoon,, is testimony to the author's poor understanding of the world she claims to have grown up in.
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on 6 July 2015
A difficult review to write .
I am curious about what belonging to a community such as the Jewish means. Claustrophobic or a warm circle of relatives and friends?.Meaningless ritual or something that encourages your faith?
The book is about being Jewish and it has a very boring start with lots of Jewish words and traditions .Once over the start I found it very easy to read and the book just carries you along. However the book is like a poor detective story and at the end one wonders why one wasted one's time reading it.
I'd compare it to the Red Tent which is another easy to read book but which plays on the emotions
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on 31 July 2007
I loved Zadie Smith 'White Teeth' and was looking forward to a similar but Jewish angle on life ...I found little humour in this book and no warmth ...too much detail of Jewish customs and unexplained words
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on 13 May 2014
While working in London, I'd often spend free time trundling up on the Northern Line tube to Golders Green to observe a culture within a culture... but here is Hendon, another microcosm, exposed by Naomi Alderman in a dry, comical, but insightful way... our heroine has escaped to New York from what she perceives as a familial prison, yet returns to her London roots, to discover old loves, and to ask deep questions about her life's meaning. The novel twists and turns, there are comical episodes, perhaps a little stereotyped (i wouldn't know), but at its heart, an examination of how we are conditioned by birth and upbringing; is it nature or nurture? Can we ever change ourselves and our baggage?
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