Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Review: Second Person Singular

Second Person Singular Second Person Singular by Sayed Kashua
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a selection for my in-person book club, and I would say I was thinking three stars before I had the opportunity to discuss it. At the same time I appreciated the short chapters, the alternating narrators, the sense of a thriller in pace if not always content. Our book club reads tend to be quite serious so this was an attempt at something lighter (we discussed whether or not we succeeded, and I think we agreed we did not!)

We also had someone at our book club meeting who read it in the original Hebrew and is from Israel, and could add a lot to the discussion. It was interesting to hear her perspective and how much difference she places between Arabs and Jews even in such shared spaces in Israel, but that reflects the reality as described by the book.

I really disliked the unnamed narrator, the lawyer character. He was not particularly religious until he suspected his wife was cheating on him, and then it was a jump to honor killings and such. He just seemed so irrational in that arena while he could be so observational of the intricacies of Arab-Israeli society and its hierarchies, all the messages tiny things could send like which place the sushi came from, etc. So it didn't quite fit his character to just lose it and go crazy. At least, that's what I was thinking going into the discussion.

The social worker character, Amir, was interesting, and had some parallels in background with the lawyer. However rather than navigating the difficult roads of Arab-Israeli society, he slowly morphs into being perceived as Jewish, and focusing on his art.

I was more interested in the female characters of the novel and if it had been up to me, I would want to read maybe a second novel about the wife and the sister and the grandmother. I bet they have interesting stories to tell.

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