1 August 2016

Love Life by Zeruya Shalev

A powerful and psychologically rich penetration into the mind of woman having an affair with an older man.

The plot of the book is very simple. Ya’ara, a young Israeli woman, is married to a man of the same age, who is portrayed through her eyes as being well meaning but uninspiring. She meets Aryeh, an older man and a lifelong friend of her father, and starts a relationship with him. After a stormy emotional and sexual affair,  exciting for her at first and then revolting, the relationship implodes. Throughout the book the reader is waiting to hear the response of her husband, Yonny, to her admission of infidelity and that suspense is kept up until the last page of the book.

The book is entirely written through the eyes, thoughts and delusions of the protagonist, and contains numerous psychological insights. At first, the reader is encouraged to think that Ya'ara is merely displaying what could be regarded as an excessive “feminine” perspective on the people and the world, but as the novel progress we begin to realise that she is mentally unbalanced and has at least partially lost her grip on reality.

While engaging, the book is not always written in an easily accessible style. Long paragraphs of poetic, but deluded, introspection can be difficult to plough through. Moreover, the book shuns the conventions of direct speech altogether, and relies on inserting conversation into the body of paragraphs.

Despite these possible shortcomings, the book is powerful and engaging. It engraves on the memory of the reader the personality and outlook of one particular young woman.

SHALEV, Zeruya, Love Life, Cannongate 2002

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