Archive for September, 2012

Stephen Carter’s The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln

September 18, 2012

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln is a thrilling political narrative based on the alternative history that Abraham Lincoln survived the attempt on his life by John Wilkes Booth. The novel opens with Lincoln being shot and then quickly departs from reality as Lincoln survives while Vice-President Andrew Johnson dies. The novel is fantastic for anybody interested in American history, the Civil War, Reconstruction, race relations, or old-fashioned conspiracy theories and murder mysteries.

The weak points of the book were generally when Carter obviously writes his characters’ lines to speak to present-day concerns about the ineffectiveness of Congress and the corruption of Washington. These lame moralisms aside, however, the novel is a beautifully constructed storyline that investigates the complex motivations of individuals in politics. The end of the novel contains a helpful epilogue where Carter distinguishes his reliance on fact versus fiction.

David Grossman’s To the End of the Land

September 3, 2012

David Grossman’s To the End of the Land tells the story of Ora and her family as they face the harsh realities of Israeli military service. Most of the book is told from Ora’s perspective as she undertakes a hike to nowhere in order to run away from the unexpected deployment of her younger son, Ofer. Ora takes along Avram, a long-lost friend and former lover. As they walk for days on end Ora recounts to Avram the childhoods of her two boys, Adam and Ofer, and her own marriage to Ilan over the past few decades. To the End of the Land has been highly praised by many, but I remain a bit ambivalent it.

Where the book shines is in capturing the pain and horror of war. It offers insight into both sides of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and particularly showcases how atrocities perpetrated in battle impact soldiers and their loved ones for long afterwards. The work also investigates (perhaps unconsciously) the need to live in denial and imaginary worlds in contemporary Israel. Without being overtly political, it was also enlightening (if deeply distressing) to see how some Israelis conceptualize Palestinians.

Where the book goes a bit awry, in my opinion, is by having little connection between its separate sections and being long-winded without just reward. I love character development, and it is enjoyable to read about the countless events from Ofer and Adam’s childhoods that fill several hundred pages. But when all is said and done, I found no method or connecting threads between these random stories. David Grossman constructs a brutal story of how people live and lose, but more in the vein of a rambling memoir rather than an intricate novel.