June 12, 2015

Five Star Review

Here’s the latest review of House Divided by author and Oberlin College class of 1965 classmate Judith White: Whew! What an exciting ride. I sailed through the short, dense chapters of House Divided impatient to know what happened next. The research is amazing. Very authentic and authoritative. Also, so current with references to the Boston Marathon bombers, for example. Full of numerous, but distinctive colorful characters. Given the clear delineation of responsibility among the characters, one might assume the author lived and worked for decades in one or more of the many federal agencies working to identify and apprehend those responsible for a series of bombings. The writing has the assuredness of an insider. Yes, one particular group is responsible, […]
May 15, 2015

Editor Praises Two Books

I received a nice review of In the Game and House Dividied from my neighbor, writer-editor Jo-Anne Surrette. Here’s what she says: “One of the reasons why Peter Pollak’s novels are enjoyable to read is that his characters have “sticking power.” When I hear a title of his, one or more of his characters’ names comes up and I remember some aspect of their issues. Whether it is the way Shannon Lynch mulls over a problem or Jake Barnes takes stock of what his research amounts to, his “people” are realistic enough to identify with and care about. “In the Game presents a dilemma shared by many forced to rekey their life style. Pollak offers a very realistic portrayal of […]
April 27, 2015

Book Review: Leon Uris, The Haj

This Leon Uris 1984 classic is worth reading (or re-reading) today in light of current events. It tells the story of an Arab family living in Palestine during the influx of Jewish settlers from Europe prior to World War II, the failure of the Arab nations to deal honestly with the refugees after the 1948 war, and the failure of the refugees to adjust to the new reality, leaving us where we are today, 67 years after Israeli independence, with the refugees still thinking their well-being depends on the destruction of Israel. Uris interweaves the story of his Arab family with historical events and people, but not always successfully as he is stuck with how to end the book–a problem […]
March 19, 2015

Understanding Israel: A Review of Yossi Klein Halevi’s Like Dreamers

With Israel much in the news this past year, many people find themselves in discussions about Israel’s founding and the evolution of Israeli politics since independence in 1948. One way to approach that history and to acquire a deeper understanding of today’s Israel is to read Yossi Klein Halevi’s Like Dreamers. Like Dreamers is an example of what is called social history. Instead of reporting on the main players in the main events, Like Dreamers tells the personal stories over forty plus years of seven men who were part of the liberation and unification of Jerusalem in 1967, and in so doing exposes the reader to the divisions that emerged in Israeli society between secular versus religious Zionists, between settlers […]
February 11, 2015

Recapturing Our Past: The Hare with Amber Eyes

What is the meaning of title of this highly-regarded memoir? The hare with amber eyes is a netsuke––one of many such objects that had a semi-practical use in Japan when men wore kimonos. Netsuke became objects of interest after 1854 when Japan was opened to the West. A large quantity was shipped to European capitals where they were purchased by collectors, along with other Japanese art. Charles Ephrussi, a cousin of Edmund de Waal’s great grandfather, purchased nearly three hundred netsuke in Paris––a moment’s attraction soon supplanted by other interests, including emerging Impressionist artists. The Hare is not a book about obscure art objects, however. It is the story of a remarkable family organized around de Waal’s search for how […]
January 27, 2015

Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone: Writing about the Unimaginable

In his award-winning book on the War in Vietnam,The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien blends fact with fiction because as he confesses “it’s difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen . . . there is always that surreal seemingness, which makes the story seem untrue, but which in fact represents the hard and exact truth as it seemed.” Ishmael Beah’s 2007 memoir A Long Way Gone has come under scrutiny. Some challenge the time period insisting he couldn’t have spent two years as a boy soldier; others question specific events, including when the attack on his village that killed his parents and sibliings occurred and the death of six people at the refugee camp where Beah was […]