Ten Thousand Lovers, by Edeet Ravel

Ten Thousand Lovers is a spare, beautifully written novel about a young Canadian woman in Israel, Lilly, who falls in love with Ami, who is charming and lovable — but who works as an interrogator for the Israeli army. The progress of this sweet-yet-doomed love affair, and the difficulties Lily has accepting Ami’s career, are played out against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts of the 1970s.

One thing I really enjoyed were the small chapters interspersed between the main ones, in which the narrator explores the meaning and background of words, all of which provide insight into the characters and their culture.

The book is, as I said, beautifully written and I was completely absorbed while reading it. I found, however, that it didn’t leave a strong emotional impact on me — a month or so after reading it, the characters no longer live in my mind as characters from memorable books often do. I enjoyed reading it as a tragic love story and as a glimpse into a different time and place, and I would recommend it, but wouldn’t count it as a favourite novel. The sadness I felt over the characters and their lives dissapated too quickly. What lingered was the sadness of realizing how little has changed in the Middle East in 30 years, and how the people who live in that region are no closer to living in a peaceful society than Lilly and Ami were.

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