My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This is the fictionalized story of the creation of the present-day nation of Israel as symbolized by the Exodus, a ship refit by the Mossad Aliyah Bet, carrying Jewish refugees from post-WWII internment camps on Cyprus to run the British blockade and settle in Palestine.
Bookshelves: well-i-tried, disappointment, world-war-ii, in-the-news, historical fiction, jewish-history, middle-east
So much potential, but I’ve been reading for a week and I’m not even halfway through. The story is interesting enough, but there is a lack of balance in writing about a many-faceted period in world history. The characters are without nuance, written in black-vs-white terms. Zionist activists and Jewish people are good; Arabs, Turks, the British, and Americans (sympathizers excepted) are bad. I understand and do not disagree with the basics of Zionism and the negation of the Diaspora, and the basis for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that’s enough to know it’s a helluva lot more complicated than Uris would have us believe. Even now, President Twitler creates some controversy by proposing to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, flying in the face of virtually every other country on the planet, most likely as another way of flipping the bird to the United Nations.* This book is 100% pro-Israeli, as far as I read, and I dislike that one-sidedness.
I could even deal with that. Just finish this book, then go read one sympathetic to the Palestinian viewpoint, but there are other things. The different characters’ backstories are visited as flashbacks that read more like infodumps, dry as unbuttered toast. Slog, slog, slog. There are a couple of romances in the offing, between the Brokenhearted Steadfast Warrior Heroes and the Beautiful and Plucky Women Who Melt Their Hearts, who come off formulaic and trite. And somebody really needed to curb Uris’s enthusiasm for the ! key.
The story is based in truth, which you can read about here and here, with a lot of poetic license that I truly have no issue with. The real Exodus sailed from Marseilles, not Cyprus, carrying far more people. I am given to understand that somebody saves the day at the end of the fictional voyage; the real life voyage did not end happily.
I was hoping for an epic I could fall in love with and gush over, but I’m more annoyed than anything, and I try to discontinue things that annoy me. I usually only give one star to a book I can’t finish, but I’m throwing in an extra for the scope, the fact that the book is dated (1958) and that’s not its fault, and that it inspired me to research the true story and learn something new.
*I hate, loathe, and despise #45 and will get my digs in where I can.
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