I was taken by this novel from the first page. Set in 1990s Israel, the author follows a year in the life of a university professor from Haifa, an Orientalist of the old school and senior member of his department, untouched by post-colonial theory and Edward Said. Old fashioned and out of touch in other ways, he is still endearingly and sympathetically drawn, while he attempts ineffectually to unravel the mystery around the sudden end of his son's marriage to a young woman whose parents run a hotel in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the scope of the novel expands in what seems like all directions, embracing the lives of many characters, including his department colleagues and their spouses, his in-laws, his son and his son's ex-wife and her family, another son who is an officer in the Army, a hotel maitre d', one of his students and her family, a minibus driver, the widow of a man killed by a terrorist bomb, an old woman who lives across the street - most of all his long-suffering wife, who is a judge in a court of law - all in all, a cast of characters that includes Christians and Muslims, as well as Jews.
There is some melodrama in the story, some comedy, and a fair amount of irony, as day-to-day events unfold, with time out for stage performances, observances of Ramadan, a Palestinian wedding, translations of folk tales for the professor's research on the origins of extremist fundamentalism in Algeria, and a late-night singing recital by a feinting nun. The irony deepens as we (but not the professor) learn what precipitated the young couple's divorce, through an exchange of letters, the most revealing of which is never delivered. Meanwhile, the weather goes through a complete cycle of seasons, and we travel back and forth between Haifa and Jerusalem, more than once into the West Bank, and five times to the airport to meet or send off visitors. The liberated bride of the title? Well, it could be nearly any female in the story, for they are all single-minded and more or less successful at keeping the men in their lives in hand. Yehoshua's novel is a long, enjoyable read, and I recommend it highly
This is not normally a book I would have chosen but it is brilliantly clever and I am reading it at the moment - I just do not know what will happen in the end. Everyone should read this book, it has some excellent spiritual and religious teachings - I am not religious in anyway - maybe that's what I liked about it so much because it involves lots of religions and shows we are all just the same no matter what religion we are. Brilliantly educational and interesting about things I never knew about.
Maybe you need to know more about this region to get the most out of this book. I found the story slow and really couldn't empathise with any of the characters. I usually enjoy reading books about different cultures but this one really didn't do it for me.