Friday, 19 March 2010

Of life-changing novels

Just occasionally, I've come across a novel which I can describe as life-changing. I've just re-read one of mine: Brothers, by Bernice Rubens. I've tried to analyse what it is about this book that makes it so special, but it's hard to pin down. It's not the best-written book I've ever read, nor is its story the most riveting, but it comes from the (her) heart, and this is manifested in the novel.

Brothers is the epic narrative of four generations of Jewish brothers and the sufferings (and the celebrations) they go through. It gave me an insight into what it is to be a Jew to such an extent that the first time I read it, I felt that I almost was one, and reading it again, I felt the same. For the second time in my life, I simply couldn't put it down. A great friend of mine, who felt about the novel as I did, wrote to Rubens to tell her, and in her reply, she said that she didn't think it was her best novel, but it was the one she was most glad to have written. As a Jew herself, it is possibly Rubens's testimony to her race and its sufferings.

Has anyone else read Brothers? And what life-changing novels (if any) has anyone read? I would love to know.

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