Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Disobedience is another novel I warmed up to--sort of--in my final chunk of reading, even though for most of the time I was reading it, I was mainly quite certain that I would never be selected as an Orange Prize judge.

Disobedience is about the (semi-)lesbian daughter of a renowned British rabbi who has escaped her father and his Orthodox community in London to make a new life for herself as a secular New York businesswoman. After her father's death, she returns to London where her ex-lover is now married to her cousin who is expected to succeed her father. Difficulties ensue.

Sounded interesting, but for the most part, I found the book's two voices too annoying. One voice is a "we" located in the Orthodox community who begins each chapter with highfaluting rumination on some Jewish topic, and goes on to narrate events from the perspectives of Dovid, the cousin, who is afflicted with colorful (literally) migraines, and Esti, the former lover, who appears to be autistic but turns out to be (I think) enlightened. The other voice, in a more modern typeface, is Ronit, the rabbi's daughter, whose story reads like ex-Orthodox lesbian chick lit.

Along with the annoying voices, the characters were none too appealing, and also kind of incomprehensible. What was the importance of Dovid's migraines? Was Esti stupid or brilliant? Was Ronit really as much of a bitch as she seemed? If so, why was Esti so entranced with her?

In the last few chapters (which I read in one sitting, on a bench at the park, so maybe it had something to do with my mood, though I couldn't say what), I started to see that the book was trying to say something perhaps kind of interesting about compromise and the value of speech. No, I know it was trying to say something about those things, because even though it was a bit interesting, it was also quite heavy-handed.

Final word? Disobedience was not as good as I imagined it might be.

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