Noa is a popular writer of mystery fiction. Feminist fiction at that, and her recurring heroine Nira Woolf, is as much a part of her confession to her daughter as is her compulsive love for Alek. Nira is written and lives according to Noa’s professed beliefs. The problem is that Noa herself lives within herself. Nira is the liberated feminist. Noa is the self-described ‘sex slave’. When she was only 17, she met Alek, an older Russian emigre whom she becomes addicted to her whole life, even though there are years at a time that Alek is not in her life. The marriage is one of convenience to keep her from military service (Alek agrees to do her this favor) to avoid IDF service. Later she has a daughter from their union, Hagar. Alek is as removed from his daughter’s life as he is from Noa’s. He eventually ends up living with another woman in Russia and then another one in Paris with whom he has more children. We shouldn’t like this guy, but he’s written with such understanding by a woman who always knew he didn’t love her, so she casts no blame his way. Actually, there is a fairly deep friendship there.
This is the first of Hareven’s works to become available in English. I was enthralled with her unreliable narrator voice right from the start: funny, self-mocking. Unfortunately, there was a sameness about her obsessiveness that finally got tedious. Their is an attempt to make the novel work on two levels: the nature of obsessive love and life in modern day Israel. The former works (but works too hard) and the latter is only intermittently successful.
Still, a talented voice, and a very readable one. But the voice is far better than the subject matter.