2 out of 4 stars
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The core of Mois Bennaroch's Key to Tetouan is a story about the large Benzimra family, who once from Tetouan in Morocco, have scattered all over the globe due to the historical ill-treatment and prosecution of the Jewish people. Going all the way back to 1492 when the Jewish people were made to leave Spain the family, and many others, took up settlement in Tetouan. Many generations later descendants of the family can be found in South America, Africa, America and back in Spain. The story is told by, and about, many members of the Benzimra family and they all have something in common – they do not feel like they belong where they have settled. The underlining message of the book has them all seeking a more promised land where they will no longer be 'the others' and simply belong. However, even when they do reach their dream land it turns out not to be what they hoped.
The stories are told from the point of view of the characters and this makes a very interesting read as it gives you different view points and opinions of the family and the places they have found themselves. Often, it is an older member telling their story to a younger one and impresses the importance of passing on stories and memories so that they can live on after you have gone. This method also makes it very relatable to the reader as they can understand, in this modern age, an older member of their family telling them things such as they should already be married and have children. It also makes you feel a pull towards the book as they describe their ultimate, everlasting homesickness as this description also makes you think of your first house and your first memories therefore you reflect and relate to the characters more.
As historical fiction it was fascinating to find out the history of the Jewish people and I found the book very religiously interesting and informative. I learnt a lot about Jewish customs and traditions and it left me wanting to know more. Coming into the book I felt like I knew a fair amount about the Jewish faith but it not only proved me wrong but educated me. Learning about different types and the history of Jewish people as well as their beliefs and hardships was the highlight of the book.
At times I found the book extremely hard to follow because of the formatting and sentence structure. The overuse of commas and lack of other punctuation made it seem very choppy and unorganised. Coupled with quite a few spelling and grammatical errors it gave off the impression it had not been professionally edited. I am unsure if the book has been translated from another language into English but there are several spelling mistakes that just cannot be overlooked - 'illiterate' was used to describe someone when the content implies they are 'literate'. Also on several occasions 'merci' was used instead of 'mercy' and 'launch' instead of 'lunch'. As the book progresses the spelling mistakes become more frequent and although a translation would account for these errors I do not find them acceptable in a professional print of the book.
There were also numerous occasions where there was no spacing between the words. Again, I am unsure if this is a grammatical error or a problem with downloaded format of the book but it just adds to the impression that it has not been professional edited.
Although I found the history of the book interesting and the characters well rounded I only award this book 2 out of 4 stars. The lack of proper punctuation and formatting makes it overall quite difficult to follow as there is no coherent structure. Again, this creates a problem with the characters because although they are interesting and relatable, because of the choppy writing style I was often unsure of whos story was being told and what direction the book was going. It was this that ultimately made me give the book a lower score.
Keys to Tetouan
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