Sometimes a book starts with so much hope. And so it was with The People of Forever are Not Afraid. I liked it’s slightly melancholy narrative style and it’s short story-esque approach. I liked the idea of following a group of women, in Israel, through their army years and getting some understanding of their experiences. I liked that it was a novel set in a place I had been, so I could truly imagine the towns, and the dust, and the checkpoints. I even liked the cover, for once.
I know, so often I start this blog by telling you how a book exceeded my expectations, well this one did quite the opposite (as an aside, I am reliably informed there is no antonym for exceed).
This novel is fundamentally flawed for three main reasons.
1. There is no narrative arc
It is (kind of) linear and follows the same characters, so you expect more than short stories. But yet, in many ways this is a novel composed of short stories. It seems to break in in the middle of something and stay pretty much in the middle until well, the end. Time passes, but that is about all.
2. You can’t really differentiate the characters
I realised that, as I was reading this, I often didn’t know which girl was which. Now some may say this is a side effect of the narrative style where a number of individual stories are intertwined. But I like, and frequently read, novels like that, and I normally know who’s who. I think the basic problem here, is that each character was troubled and complex but in similar ways, which, particularly when taken out of their home context and put on an army base, made them very hard to differentiate. I think this is why I walked away from this novel with no quotes – it is strong, memorable characters which normally lead to the best quotes.
3. I expected more insight
When reading a novel on an unusual (and controversial) theme such as this, I expect to come to the end having garnered some fundamental insight(s). And I didn’t really. Instead, there was no real end, and I remained confused about who was who.