Perhaps I’ve just read too much Israeli history and lit to really appreciate this book. It started out quite well, lovely really, with the personal stories of Oz’s early life in Jerusalem. But the general impression is so very much like the other autobiographical novels and memoirs I’ve read re Israel that it got old and repetitious after a short time. The main difference here is that Oz writes better than most – Meir Shalev excepted (the Blue Mountain).
About 1/3 of Oz’s book is interesting or amusing – something. I suppose those parts generally have to do with his own development from Zionist upbringing and the difficulties of his parents in Jerusalem to the kibbutz years. (?). It’s primarily about his childhood in a family of intellectual lower middle class Jews imbued with love of family and Israel and history and philosophy. But still, there is so much knotted repetition in the details that it gets tedious.
The best part is toward the beginning when Oz describes the interactions between relatives regarding gift giving. That was so funny I read it aloud to my mom. Another good part is the first of his aunt’s family tales, the ancestry. And his thoughts on, or memories of, Menachim Begin, Ben-Gurion and Spinoza were funny. His sensitive mother’s illness was tragic for this very bright little boy and his father’s emotional distance didn’t help.
Unfortunately, the first 75 pages or so the whole structure collapsed in a pile of details and I basically never did really get into the narrative again – only some highlights and the last few chapters were amazing. Overall, I suppose there is some really very good insight into the psyche of the Israeli people, of the Eastern European intellectual variety, anyway.
I’m still interested in the history and issues of Israel but my basic opinion is that “it seemed like a good idea at the time,” “time is not on their side,” and “for every thing there is a season…”