A Tale of Love and Darkness, Amos Oz, Harcourt Inc, 2004, 538 pp
Here is another book I have been meaning to read ever since it was published. I loved it, even though he is sometimes wordy and repeats himself. I read it for one of my reading groups but it was my suggestion.
Amos Oz was born in Jerusalem to Jewish parents who had arrived in the forming country of Israel in the late 1930s from Poland. The parents were both highly educated and Amos' father's family were writers and scholars. Raised in this atmosphere, Oz became quite the bookish prodigy at a young age. He began writing poems and stories as a child.
I thought I would learn about kibbutz life since Oz moved to a kibbutz in his teens, but about that he told little. Instead he thoroughly explores the lives of his immigrant extended family in the 1940s and 1950s from his memories of being a child then.
It is a powerful story and brought me to understand, as I hadn't previously, the extreme oppression against Jews in Eastern Europe and Russia. I saw how that led to an almost fanatical belief in the concept of Israel and why Jews there would defend it even unto death. Oz does not so much excuse excesses that the Jews have engaged in against Palestine and Arabs, as he does show how such a state of affairs came about. The betrayals by Great Britain are enumerated but I saw the long history of the Jews as the roots of it all.
For Amos Oz and his family the losses of home, family members killed by Nazis and a whole way of life were hard in the extreme. His mother finally succumbed to depression and ended her life when Oz was just 12 years old. A Tale of Love and Darkness is his way of coming to terms with his mother's suicide and as he slowly revealed the details I found myself riveted to every page. The mother spent hours telling the young Amos tales that she knew or invented; Amos has told her tale.