Monday, May 4, 2009

Review: A Pigeon and a Boy by Meir Shalev

Having read Shalev's beautiful novel, The Blue Mountain, I was eager to see if A Pigeon and a Boy was as gorgeously rendered as that one was. I have to say that I still find the other more enticing but this has an appealing dream-like cast to it. Two different stories that converge in the narrative, the story opens with a rich American, former member of the Palmach telling of the death of a boy and his symbolic release of a final homing pigeon as he dies in battle to the other tour members and Yair, their Israeli tour guide. From this point onward, the narrative splits into the stories of Yair's life and that of Baby, the young homing pigeon handler who died so many years ago in the fighting. But as the stories diverge, so they must, in the end, converge again. Both stories center on love and its loss: man-woman, mother-son, and friend-friend. Shalev draws Israel before Independence with minute strokes, describing the place and everything in it with a detailed richness that sometimes threatens to overwhelm the reader. His characters are lost and found again in love drawing understanding sympathies from the reader. The tragedies and betrayals, both physical and emotional, that play out in the novel are piercing and yet there is still ultimately a redemptive feel to the novel as a whole: the past melts seamlessly into the present and the present can be made right. I found it initially hard to sink into the book fully but once I made that effort, I was rewarded by a stunning book; one that will stay with me for a long time.

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