Book: In the beginning - Livre d'Or








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livredor
Book: In the beginning
Monday, 27 November 2006 at 10:18 pm
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Author: Chaim Potok

Details: (c) 1975 Chaim Potok and Adena Potok Trust; Pub Fawcett Crest 1975; ISBN 0-449-22980-7

Verdict: In the beginning is very depressing.

Reasons for reading it: I like Potok a lot.

How it came into my hands: I came across it at my parents' place and grabbed it because I was surprised to find a Potok novel I hadn't read.

On reading this, I think I may in fact have read it before, but it's rather unmemorable. It's an extremely depressing book, with the protagonist's parents arriving in America as refugees from pogroms in Eastern Europe, building a life for themselves only to lose everything in the Depression, and just when they are recovering from that and building everything up a second time, the second world war happens and the Nazis kill all their remaining family and friends in Europe. Meanwhile, the protagonist himself spends his childhood being constantly sick and badly bullied.

It's Potok; the characterization is great, and the evocation of the interwar Orthodox community in New York. It's rather worse than Potok generally is for giving didactic explanations of how Orthodox Judaism works, actually. The trouble is there's not much plot to hang description and characterization on; the story of David growing up while lots of horrible things happen in the wider world isn't quite enough to sustain a novel. I thought that David might be the father of the protagonist of The Chosen, making itB a sort of prequel, but I think it's just Potok repeating previous themes a bit.

On thing that is striking about itB is its portrayal of the reaction of the American Jewish community in 1945 to revelations of just how bad the Holocaust actually was. It made me realize that I've lived my whole life in a world where humans can do something so unimaginably horrible to their fellow humans. But for that generation, they had to find out for the first time about that systematic, industrialized mass murder and everything that went along with it. To call it a loss of innocence is to trivialize the situation very badly, but it's something that made me think.


Whereaboooots: Interwar New York
Moooood: depresseddepressed
Tuuuuune: Radiohead: Street spirit
Discussion: 4 contributions | Contribute something
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From:curious_reader
Date:December 2nd, 2006 10:47 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry
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snjstar was reading it some months ago. She borrowed it from one of her relatives. She offered it to me but I have more enjoyable books to read. I don't think I will read it. It would make me more pathetic and depressed. I have a bad cold at the moment and have problems with my tummy as well. I had to fight with a landlord to get an electrician. At the end I phoned one and I will deduct it from the rent if the landlord likes it or not. We lived for almost a week without ceiling lights. We only had some socket lamps and used candles in the bathroom and toilet mainly. Anyway, back to books. Rabbi Chaim Weiner gave me his book "L'chaim Seven Years in Edgware". It is quite basic but it does give me some additional information about Masorti view compared with Orthodoxy. Next time I start the "Chronicles of Narnia" and then I will borrow letharig_man's "The Hobbit" and "Lord of the Rings" because I have never read it in English. I know it is an exciting fantasy adventure story. It already gripped me when I read in German. It was a long time ago. I can't even remember the details.
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From:curious_reader
Date:December 2nd, 2006 10:48 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry
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I always make mistakes. I meant with the landlord.
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livredor: livre d'or
From:livredor
Date:December 3rd, 2006 08:27 am (UTC)
11 hours after journal entry, 08:27 am (livredor's time)
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You're completely right not to bother with this book. It's depressing and hard work to read without any corresponding reward. If you happen to find The Chosen, though, you should read that, because I think you'll like it. And it deals with serious issues but it's not unremittingly depressing. Yay for Lewis and Tolkien, though!

I'm sorry to hear you're not well and I hope you feel better soon! Well done on dealing with the electrician and the landlord. Those things are hard to do, but worth it in the end; don't let the landlord take advantage because quarrelling is unpleasant.
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From:curious_reader
Date:December 3rd, 2006 03:53 pm (UTC)
18 hours after journal entry
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Yes, I read that. It was on the recommendation list of my former Reform Rabbi when I tried to convert Reform. That was 2002. It is a great book. I saw the film a year ago. I liked the book much better. I read it in German but I assume it is originally in Hebrew anyway and I won't be able to understand it. I am actually rather getting away from Jewish books. I want to read something else. I always had one Jewish book after another. I need something else. I know what I want to read. I am not short of books at the moment.
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