Monday, July 6, 2015

I Am Forbidden

I Am Forbidden
© 2012 Anouk Markovits
302 pages

Darkness grips Eastern Europe in the 1940s as war devours millions and the hopes of generations. Jewish residents of Romania are especially hard-pressed; already viewing themselves as a people in exile, they are dispersed further afield as they flee persecution. I Am Forbidden follows the family of a Jewish scholar who rescues two orphans and raises them with his own children,  first in Paris and then in England. Sadly, not only war threatens their peace,  as two daughters growing up in an archly traditional sect of Judaism struggle to find their role within it. I Am Forbidden is a heartbreaking story of lives ruined by secrets and scrupulosity, of hardened hearts sinking any hopes for happiness.  In using  the coming-of-age of two friends (here sisters) to explore the tensions between Hasidim and modernity, I Am Forbidden is rather like The Chosen; but where the latter offered a hopeful conclusion,  this leaves the reader in despair.  There is interest here, of course, the insight given here about Hasidism -- but the utter absence of mercy makes it an artfully written but distressingly sad tale.

The Chosen, Chaim Potok

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