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When I Lived in Modern Times (2000)
by Linda Grant
Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0452282926, Paperback)In April 1946, a 20-year-old East End London hairdresser named Evelyn Sert sets out for Palestine. "This is my story," she writes in When I Lived in Modern Times, which won Linda Grant the 2000 Orange Prize. "Scratch a Jew and you've got a story." Her account is no less complicated than that of any other displaced European Jew in the postwar years. Separated from her family, she searches for some kind of reliable identity in an inhospitable new land--and in shining, Bauhaus-influenced Tel Aviv, she finds that she is more English than Israeli. Lo and behold, she becomes Priscilla Jones, a peroxided Londoner with an absent policeman husband. She is at her most "real," it seems, when pretending, and revels in her ability to be entirely accepted among the English women whose hair she cuts and curls. Outside of their petty and casually anti-Semitic circle, meanwhile, she struggles with Hebrew, the heat, the unfamiliar food, and an alien way of life.
In Palestine, of course, the English are the enemy. Evelyn is soon drawn into a world of shifting identities, lies, and secrets by her passionate Zionist boyfriend, Johnny. Even then, she is never quite sure which side she is on, or where she belongs. All of this makes her a prototypical inhabitant of Linda Grant's Tel Aviv, a city of contradictions and of hope. More to the point, Grant's heroine is a fully believable figure, a chameleon of a kind readily recognizable to those of us who grew up as part of the seismic displacement of peoples that accompanied World War II--and, alas, to anyone who has been caught up in the more recent exoduses from Bosnia, Kosovo, and Albania. --Lisa Jardine
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:31 -0400)
A woman's story of discovery--of herself, her heritage and the land that would one day become Israel.
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