3 out of 4 stars
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Set in 1968’s Jewish exile from Poland, Love and Obsession at the Time of Exile by Alexander Askanas is a tale of diversity and suspense as well as romance. Adam is a doctor working in Poland during the late 1960s. His main goal in life at that time is to bring better heart health care to Poland, which largely remained in the dark ages at the time. On a brief retreat for some rest, an old acquaintance happens to relate some disturbing details of anti-Semitic risings, and Adam becomes uncomfortable with the direction Poland is taking. In the interim, he finds romance in the form of an extra-marital affair. To see what happens next, you must read the book!
Initially, I expected this book to be mostly about escape. Although that is part of the story, the book focuses more on the rights and wrongs of actions taken against Jews in Poland. The protests and subsequent violence by police and government officers are indicative of the changes that were taking place. It was interesting to read the slogans on the signs, some of which didn’t even make sense, but that was the point. None of it made sense.
The story outlines the emigration of Adam and his family to America during a time when Poland was expelling Jews. On the journey, the reader is acquainted with the difficulties of living in other countries. Language barriers, customs, and culture all play a part in how a person lives in another country as an outsider, even if that time is brief. I appreciated the way this author imparts this feeling to the reader.
The pacing of this book is excellent, and the story keeps the reader engaged. I found myself on the edge of my seat more than once and unable to put the book down. This suspense was what I liked most about this book. Interrogation during documentation was one of the tests that Jewish immigrants had to deal with on the way, and it was very suspenseful indeed.
The writing style in this book centers on the main character’s point of view, as told by him. Like many stories about fleeing from one country to another, this one shows the strength of friendships, international connections, and family bonds. One sentence in the book reads, “He was yearning for New York like for the Promised Land.” A very appropriate way to voice a sentiment of what must have been an amazing and frightening moment in time.
The character development in this book is great. Despite Adam’s affairs, etc., I found myself liking him. His moral outlooks and struggles showed his conscience was intact and active. His wife, Ula, was someone readers could identify with and even pity in some ways.
In the end, I found nothing to dislike about this book. It is an adventure and very entertaining. It did have quite a few errors, so I am rating it with 3 out of 4 stars. Once the errors are fixed, it could easily gain a star back. It will appeal to readers who love travel and books that feature suspenseful plots as well as romance. This book contains some strong profanity as well as racy sex scenes, so I don’t recommend it to any but the most mature readers. If you don’t like books with anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jews, this may not be the book for you.
Love and obsession at the time of exile
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