Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rise - A Novel of Contemporary Israel by Yosef Gotlieb

Rise: A Novel of Contemporary Israel. Yosef Gotlieb. Published by The Olive Group. October 2011. 386 pages. ISBN #: 97857557011.

Lilah Kedem left Israel thirty years ago after she was emotionally decimated by the death of her brother, who died in battle during his military service in Israel.  Now, she's come back to initially watch as her husband, with whom she's had an on again off again relationship over the years, in his leadership position in the Israeli government, meets opposition in the government.  She also sees how honorably, bravely, and maturely her son, Ido, behaves in his position in an elite division of the Israeli Defense Forces.  No, it's not an idyllic reunion at all and days after her return the appalling violence begins that will change all of their lives.

Lilah over the years has become a renowned photography journalist, a master at her trade.  She decides to take some pictures of Arab and Jewish Israeli women.  One Arab woman with stunning blue eyes piques her attention and she takes her picture, only to see a photo of that same woman two days later on the front page of a national newspaper.  For this woman was the first victim of those who advertise themselves as Jewish extremists who vow to remove all Arabs from Israel's soil.  

Eli Zedek is a retired member of Israeli's security forces who is determined, after several even more violent attacks against Arab villages, to find the perpetrators of such horrific acts.  At the same time, Lilah and Naftali reunite with Lilah's oldest friend, Micah, and her husband, Issam, an Arab doctor.  Their response, after forming a group of both Arabs and Jews to discuss and celebrate the ideas that unite and speak of the best of Israel, is to form a grass-roots movement, called Rise, that will oppose the materialistic, inadequate parties of the Israeli government and force them to acknowledge the desires of the population which for the most part desire peace and an end to the centuries old cycles of rage and death.  At first the goals and methods seem rather naive and fantasy-ridden, especially when the reader considers the reality of this regions's history, but little but little the people do rise to indicate this is a dream that can become reality through the union and demands of the many.  

The final confrontations with the evil force perpetrating the attacks are tense and in one sense unbelievable as the reader cannot guess who is behind the evil appearing as a harbinger of death.

Yosef Gotlieb obviously knows his subject very well, is familiar with all the ins and outs, the support and opposition, the materialism, religiosity, and spiritual outlook present in the varied citizens of this war-torn and war-weary land of Israel.  He tells an amazing story that should be read by many, a story of rising above the worst that man can demonstrate to create the best that all united can fashion.  Wonderful contemporary fiction and well-crafted novel!!!

Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt

Thief of Shadows - Book Four in the Maiden Lane Series. Elizabeth Hoyt. Grand Central Publishing.  June 2012. 384 pages. ISBN #: 9781455508327.

Lady Isabel Beckinhall is returning home from being a representative for a special home for unfortunate infants and foundlings when she has a startling experience in the seamier St. Giles part of London, England in 1738. Her carriage comes to a halt when the driver spies a dead man in the street, the notorious Ghost of St. Giles, who really is severely wounded but not dead at all!  Against the advice of others and her own reason, she has him stuffed into the carriage and covered. After a frightening moment of being stopped by the police, she returns home and has the injured man carried inside.  She sees he has a deep wound that needs sutures but never sees his face as he regains consciousness before she can remove the face covering which disguises his real person.  What she sees in his eyes and he in hers is enough to kindle a light that at first appears to go nowhere!

He soon recovers and leaves and she is back to her society responsibilities.  These concern being asked to teach high society manners to the manager of the home for orphans, a brusque cold fish of a character when in society but a warm, generous, big-hearted man for the children whose lives he manages.  However, the foundling home's Board of society snobs don't know that and are threatening to replace him unless Isabel can re-educate him to rise to the level of those whose finances are necessary for the survival of the home.  Let the games begin!

What follows are some funny moments as Winter Makepeace learns to act like a boring, stuffy member of the aristocracy by participating in Isabel's lessons.  But something else is happening in this supposedly neutral relationship - both are cautiously but rapidly falling for each other.  He must learn to dress in a more fashionable style and learn to speak general nonsense that means nothing and yet everything to the "right" people.  What further will happen when the rising peace between Winter and Isabel gets fueled by their private and then public meetings?

Finally we learn who the real Ghost of St. Giles is, the background behind his name in story form and the incident that led him to discovery that children were being kidnapped for financial gain by the most unsavory characters. Who is the aristocrat behind these kidnappings still occurring? A strong sense of justice fills The Ghost's being and he vows to save as many children as possible.  What will happen to such  a group of honest businessmen who profit from the work of young, young children?   Will the Ghost of St. Giles be able to fill a larger goal of helping those in distress?

Remarkable, passionate story, Ms. Hoyt - well-told and oh so romantic!