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Review: Heatwave and Crazy Birds

A long haul

    By Gabriela Avigur-Rotem
    Dalkey Archive Press, £11.99

    Heatwave and Crazy Birds should be a good read. It covers weighty and momentous subjects in a way that only an author with first-hand experience can and it incorporates enough secrets and lies to keep even the most sceptical readers on the edge of their seats. What it shouldn't have been was a book to "get through", one where the temptation to skip was difficult to resist. Unfortunately, it's an ambitious book that never quite lives up to its encouraging start.

    Set in the 1950s and 1990s, this is the story of Loya Kaplan, a motherless, precocious child in an Israeli neighbourhood full of new immigrants, Holocaust survivors and gossip. We learn what happened in the gaps between her youth and her return as a middle-aged air hostess, happy anywhere but home. We follow the fortunes not only of Loya but of her father and his friend Davidi and gradually discover more about the figures, alive or dead, who haunt her. We are also with her as she confronts the truth about her unusual family.

    It's a story bursting with fascinating observations about the struggles of a secular child in a traditional neighbourhood, the reluctance of those who escaped wartime Europe to talk about the past and the metamorphosis of children into adults. But at more than 400 pages, it is far too long, and the author's prose - essentially one long stream of consciousness - is exhausting and frustratingly unclear. There are several great stories in here, but they are lost within out-of-context episodes and a too-vast cast of characters. One for a brave reader only.

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