Ten Thousand Lovers by Edeet Ravel; Perennial, an imprint of
Harper Collins; 284 pages; $12.95 (paperback)
by Norman Manson
blush, this novel seems to be a lightweight romantic tale, almost a print
version of a chick flick. But, set as it is in modern Israel, where
nothing is quite that simple, it evolves into a deep-rooted account of emotional
conflict, emblematic in some ways of the rift - perhaps even a chasm - that
pervades Israeli society.
Lilly, the book's narrator and key figure, falls in love with Ami, whose army
job of interrogating prisoners runs sharply counter to his personal philosophy.
Lily, a graduate student at Hebrew University, also holds liberal, peace-loving
views. Born on a kibbutz, she immigrated to Canada with her parents as a child
and has returned only to pursue her studies.
Ami's best friend, Ibrahim, is an Israeli Arab whose girlfriend, Mary Jo, is a
Mennonite - we're not dealing with ordinary, run-of-the-mill people here. Edeet
Ravel, herself born on a left-wing kibbutz and a now a resident of Canada,
weaves a fascinating, page-turner story of the interactions of these characters
and a few others, such as Bracha, Lily's aunt. Set in the
mid- and late 1970s, the book epitomizes the turmoil that was, at that time,
beginning to wrack Israeli society as it grappled with the difficult issues
involved in administering its newly acquired West Bank, Gaza, the Golan
Heights and Sinai.
And, interspersed with the main story, Ravel fast-forwards twenty years or so -
Lily now lives in London and has a grown daughter who is a ballet dancer. And,
adding a little intellectual content, the author traces the etymology of various
Hebrew words, all of which have some bearing on the book's plot. And, to spice
things a bit more, there's even a recipe for parsley hummus dip!
Along with their frequent sexual escapades, which are described in detail, the
couple gradually reveal their backgrounds - how they came to be what they are -
and their ideological viewpoints, which really are quite similar. It all leads
up to a heart-rending denouement, which will not be revealed here.
The jumps from the past to the present (or at least to the late '90s) disrupt
the flow, the continuity of the plot to a certain extent, and the discussions
about Hebrew words have a similar effect. But, once the reader becomes
accustomed to these interruptions, the plot unfolds quite smoothly, as, overall,
the book is quite readable. And it does provide some insight into the emotional
and ideological conflicts that have troubled Israeli society for a generation