I loved this book. It was like having a peephole into the ancient and private world of the world of ultra-orthodox Jew in contemporary London. Narrated from the viewpoint of several characters from within the community it reveals both the lifestyle and carefully observed religious laws of the faith as well how the faith is privately and individually experienced by each of the characters. Eve Harris has done a fabulous job. The novel begins with young Chani Kaufman dressed uncomfortably in her wedding garb on the eve of her wedding, and tracks her trepidation and excitement back and forth in time from the expression of interest communicated via the community matchmaker, through to the culmination of the wedding. The young people must bravely face one another as man and wife when they have barely had any private contact beyond being in a room together.
Then there is the narrative of the Rebbetzin, or Rabbi's wife who has been instructing Chani in preparation for her wedding while privately experiencing a crisis of faith and dissatisfaction with the life she has been living. Her story takes us back to her student days during an exchange year in Israel and how she became Orthodox after falling in love with a young Jewish boy who was going through his own journey of religious discovery.
We also touch on the perspective of the young bridegroom and his domineering mother, learning fascinating insights into how the courtship process is handled and the currency of young good frum Jewish girls who are on the markets for marriage and how an expression of interest is handled.
Avromi, the son of the Rabbi is studying at a secular university and his story focuses on the difficulty of being on the contemporary world but not of it and what happens should one fall for one of the goyim.
A really special read, this book is one that really breathes life into a world that is steeped in ancient traditions and beliefs and beings to life not only its challenges for community members but the intense joy of a tradition that spans hundreds of years.
Title: The Marrying of Chani Kaufman
Author: Eve Harris
Publisher: Dingwall: Sandstone