Review by Chrys Brobbey -- Raquel Says (Something Entire...

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Chrys Brobbey
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Review by Chrys Brobbey -- Raquel Says (Something Entire...

Post by Chrys Brobbey » 10 Apr 2017, 01:34

[Following is a volunteer review of "Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected)" by Mois benarroch.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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One day while going about his business as a writer the unexpected happens. The author returns from a short break only to discover that an invisible hand has left him a message. It is not an incoming email, as you may think, but one typed onto the document he is working on. And to add to the mystery the message reads: “Today, and only today, you may create a person.” Create a person? How surreal! The attached condition is that the person to be created must have been born in the same year as the author, and in the same city. Could it get any more bizarre than that? So instead of writing a novel with fictional characters the author creates a person. Yes, an actual person. She is the one his female character is always based on – a woman whom he had felt close to for a long time. She lives a parallel life to him, and she is called Raquel. If you are intrigued enough you can get to know more about Raquel in the flesh, as she engages in lively flirtation with the author throughout the pages of the book “Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected)”.

The book is the brainwork of Mois Benarroch. It is the version translated from Spanish into English by Sally Seward in 2015. The author in 2009 was awarded the Prime Minister’s Prize in Israel, and in 2012 he won the Yehuda Amichai Prize for Poetry. Born in (Spanish) Morocco in 1959, he has since been living in Israel where his parents relocated when he was thirteen years old.

In the book Mois Benarroch takes the reader with him on a ride as he tries to re-discover and identify with his Moroccan roots. He talks about his loneliness, his feeling of being in exile in Israel and his conflicted personality. He sees his family’s move to Israel as “leaving my house alone, without my footsteps, and without my shadow.” I empathize with him about his feeling of alienation in his adopted land. The recreation of himself as a female serves as a means of escapism for him. In the guise of Raquel he lives a parallel life in Madrid and writes in his mother tongue Spanish, as if he never left his roots. His make-believe living in two worlds, two cultures thus mitigates his ambivalence.

I recommend the book as good material to gain some knowledge about the politics and society in Israel as a whole. The European (Ashkenazi) Jews have since the founding of Israel in 1948 constituted the elite class. Mois Benarroch’s parents migrated from Morocco to Israel because they are Sephardic Jews. The author alleges discrimination against his class of Jews. To quote him: “They see us as a challenge, a threat to Israeli society for not being Western enough.” This brings to mind the demonstration by the resettled Ethiopian Jews in Tel Aviv in 2015 against the perceived racism against them.

While I sympathize with the author, I get the impression that he carries his fight against the system too far. By writing “I talked non-stop to everyone about it” his insistence may be nauseating to the point of chilling the response of the powers that be. He seems to play his activist role of ‘voice for the voiceless’ overtime. No wonder that he says he is assaulted with letters and phone calls about being crazy. He becomes the problem then, instead of the solution to the wrongs that he alludes to. However, his cry is heartfelt when he laments that “They ask me to get rid of my past to be one of them. Not that I don’t want to, but that I can’t.” I will leave it up to readers to get a first-hand feel of his dilemma as they browse the pages of the book.

The style of writing is in the first person. In tone the author uses a monologue addressed to his other self. This makes the reading somewhat monotonous due to the multiple use of ‘I’ and ‘my’ and the lack of varied sentence structures. However, this is compensated for by the passion and the flow of the narrative. I find it not a book to read for pleasure or relaxation, but one that fuels thinking about cultural differences, prejudices, racism and assimilation. Sections of the book are in poetic form, and have to be read over and over slowly to absorb the meaning.

I picked the book expecting to review a novel, as identified on the cover. But I find it to be other than a novel. Perhaps the tag of a ‘Metaphysical Memoir’ may be more apt. The author admits, however, that: “Anything called a novel sells better, than those called something else.” That makes me laugh at his marketing gimmick.

I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. Immigrants trapped in other cultures will identify with the book. It is also a good source of educative information to all about Israel. I liked living in its mystical fantasy that operates in the present, past and future simultaneously. Its combination of prose and poetry makes it unique. It is rich in imagery, as when the author writes that he and Raquel live in books just as words live among pages. I leave the rest up to your imagination, until you uncover the one-in-a-pair in the pages of “Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected)”. Like a twist on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Raquel Says (Something Entirely Unexpected)
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Post by Jaime Lync » 12 Apr 2017, 19:17

I also read this book quite recently. I found it very confusing and it had too many grammatical errors for me to give it a 4 out of 4 stars. Did you know that this book is a part of Mois Benarroch's Love and Exile series? There are seven ''novels'' in the series and this one seems to be the third one. I recently reviewed the one that comes before this one - The Stealer of Memories which was translated from Spanish to English by William C (very poor translation). The content of the books make them worth a read.
If you want to find out more about Raquel you should read The Stealer of Memories.

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Post by Amagine » 12 Apr 2017, 21:34

Your review is very well written. I enjoy that the author used the book to educate readers on his culture and the politics of Israel. With the world the way it is right now, people need much more understanding.

Great Review! :character-hobbes:
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Post by Chrys Brobbey » 16 Apr 2017, 17:45

Hi Jaime, the book is not your normal kind of novel, and you have to read deeply to appreciate it. In a sense it is part poetry, and so it can take liberties with grammar. Note that somewhere in the book the author states that a poet is the only one who can drive without a driver's license; he was referring to the unusual nature of his book, and the liberties that allowed with structure and all else. The book is highly metaphysical, like the works of the poets Donne and Keats. I write both prose and poetry, so it was easy for me to maneuver through the mingling of both in one book. Thanks for your viewpoint.

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Post by Rosemary Okoko » 26 Jul 2017, 03:33

I read and reviewed this book. It can cause confusion to the reader especially if it is the first book being read by this author. Nice and honest review.

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Post by Ashley Nestler » 07 Aug 2017, 11:18

I love how this book explores culture and how it affects people who are impacted by multiple cultures at once. Thank you for the awesome review!
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Post by Afuglsan » 07 Aug 2017, 11:23

Sound like an interesting book. However, I don't think that this is a book for me. I'm generally not into political or social issue novels.

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Post by Gingerbo0ks » 07 Aug 2017, 11:26

I read and reviewed this one but had to give it two stars. I get it's not for everyone, just because it didn't wow me doesn't mean someone else wouldn't enjoy it.uu
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Post by ellieonline03 » 07 Aug 2017, 11:26

I read one of the author's books (The Expelled) and I liked it. From your review, I can say that he did the same "gimmick" in the previous book I read as well. It was confusing, but it becomes more interesting as you go along the story. This book seems a good one, too. Thank you for your review!
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Post by kandscreeley » 07 Aug 2017, 11:42

Sounds like a very interesting story. I'd love to be able to create my own person sometimes. I'm not sure this book is for me, though. It sounds too metaphysical for me. Thanks for your review. Very nice.
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Post by Sophie11 » 07 Aug 2017, 11:43

I can't imagine having to review a book as intense as this one seems, great job. This review definitely gives you a perspective on what you'll be reading.

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Post by gali » 07 Aug 2017, 11:53

A message from invisible hand? Sounds intriguing. A good point about the author playing his activist role of ‘voice for the voiceless’ over time. I think one should take his allegations with a grain of salt, as it seems the author has his own prejudices. Not really my cup of tea, but I am glad you enjoyed the book. Thank you!
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Post by Jackie Donnelly » 07 Aug 2017, 12:00

I like the idea of creating a person but overall this book sounds too serious for me. Nicely written review.

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Post by ZenaLei7 » 07 Aug 2017, 12:02

This seems like an interesting read. I have never heard of a plot like this one so I may add this book to my reading list. Great job on the review!
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Post by smart24 » 07 Aug 2017, 12:06

Its a good book, I recommend for those interested in politics. :D

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