My new year’s resolution for 2009 is to not recommend any book until I’ve finished it. That gives me a couple of weeks to indulge my particular blogging vice, and there’s no better place to start than Abraham B. Yehoshua’s wonderful A Woman in Jerusalem, which I can’t recommend highly enough even though I’m only fifty odd pages into it.
I have to admit, shamefaced, that Yehoshua is a relatively new voice to me – his works like The Lover and Mr Mani having passed me by, despite the fact that he’s won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was on the shortlist for the Man Booker International Prize back in 2005 (one by Ismail Kadare).
Thus far into A Woman in Jerusalem I can tell you two things that recommend it highly. The first is the beautiful metaphor that is at the centre of the book (and outlined from the outset). A woman is killed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, and her body remains unclaimed, forgotten in the city morgue until a journalist discovers a payslip amongst her posessions – the only means of identifying this woman, then becomes the shameful responsibility of a human-resources manager. What a brilliant premise for examining the de-humanisation of the victims of a bloody political conflict fought as much on the television screens as it is in the streets.
The second element that makes the book worthy of recommendation is, in a sense the negation of the first, or more accurately it’s the relegation of this beautiful metaphor to second place. In first place is the telling of the story – that is to say that from the first pages Yehoshua’s clever and subtle characterisation of the human resources manager, who is in the midst of his own personal drama, is so compelling that pages are turned to follow him on his quest with scant thought of the bigger picture, at least until you pause for breath.