Rachel and Michael met and fell in love in
Toulouse in 1913, just before World War I. Rachel had come from Palestine to
study agronomy; Michael, from Russia, was studying electrical engineering. But
they were kept apart by historical events, by revolutionary ideology and, no
less, by their inhibitions. In 1915, Rachel traveled back to Russia, the land
of her birth, but when the war was over she returned to Palestine, whose
landscapes she adored, and became a celebrated poet. Michael went back to
Russia for good and led a undistinguished life. They never met again, but his
love for Rachel endured, preserved in the 29 letters that he wrote to her.
These letters and Gertz’s in-depth research are the keystone to this
fascinating literary and historical drama, centering around a couple seen as
the heroes of a lost generation―their dreams were too great and ended in
Rachel later became a famous poetand
a cultural heroine. Her poetry as well as her brief life--cut short by
tuberculosis--were widely mythologized. Michael did not become a revolutionary,
he just tried to survive. He worked as a teacher in the shadow of historic
events, and wrote textbooks on electricity that reflected the Communist Party
line. He gave up his desire to change the world as well as his love, preferring
to leave his relationship with Rachel as a dream.
Gertz weaves a captivating story of frustrated love,
with all its twists and turns in France, Russia and Palestine.
PARTIAL TRANSLATION AVAILABLE (for publishers only).
It has been some time
since I have read a book that was so meticulous, so exquisite that it moved me
to tears … that brought me so close to the characters and that gave me such an
exact sense of time and of people, in the snow and in the sun, of houses,
streets, fields, landscapes, longing. It is a wonder that this novel can make
so much out of so little. And with what subtlety and caution emotional baggage
is depicted, something that could easily have slid into sentimentality. But the
concrete and detailed design keeps this baggage in check. And nonetheless,
despite all the restraint, Rachel and Michael make one’s heart tremble.
Author Amos Oz
I also read Nurith
Gertz’s superb book without a break, thrilled and excited … A rare book … A
riveting historical-literary drama … A painful and captivating love story,
one which real life could not
accommodate. In the difficult and bad times we are going through in a divided
and bleeding Israeli society, there is something cathartic and consoling in
this literary encounter made possible by Gretz’s book … Rachel the Poetess will
always occupy us, and Gretz’s book can be seen as a superb contribution.
Poet Haim Gouri, Haaretz
The choice made by Gertz
to focus on the character of Michael, a marginal and forgotten figure, and to
write through his thoughts and eyes, is no less than brilliant. Not only
because it is a surprising choice, which enables Gretz to enter this field
along an unpaved path, but mainly because it concretizes the necessary distance
between the biographer and her subject.
Shira Stav, Haaretz
Nurith Gertz has very
freely and very responsibly woven one of the loveliest and most profound love
stories ever to be written here … Prose that is exquisite and multi-layered …
Sometimes I felt as though I was reading the book through a stethoscope that
was attacked to the text and helping me understand its unique
Yair Garbuz, Yedioth
A quality book … Gertz
has created a powerful statement about the individual life as an ongoing missed
opportunity and indirectly also about missed national and universal
opportunities … A mature, original work, written in a sweeping style that is
loyal to itself and intact at all levels … A work that is free of all
redundancies … To write such a complex, convincing work, devoid of any
emotional manipulations, control of self and of the medium is essential … Gertz
cleaves to the evidence she gathered in her diligent research, to the extent
that it seems that the seething whispers of her characters have welded her
fingers to the keyboard.
Talma Admon, Maariv
A gripping human and
historical account of a kind that is rare in Israel. The superb writing and the
precise selection of a gray man who stood for a moment next to Rachel the
Poetess make this novel into a book that is a very worthwhile read.
Yiftach Ashkenazy, Mako
Nurith Gertz’s new book
is brimming with enthralling materials … The difficulty of choosing, the
difficulty of first being infected by passion and then to stand behind it,
these are the most central and powerful themes of the book … The romantic and
political frustration will speak to youthful hearts.
Tamar Raphael, Time
A sensitive book … Gertz
has done some deep research here, and for that we should take off our hats to
Galit Hatan, Lady
I read it avidly.
Dan Margalit, Israel
A beautiful book.
Kobi Meidan, IETV
I was swept away into
the story, because it is so finely written … The accounts of event in Russia
during the 1917 revolution are saddening and appalling … Gertz also depicts
doubts well through the eyes of Michael … The most enchanting parts of the
novel are those in which the writer bestows her own powers of imagination upon
Ofra Offer-Oren, Literary blog
An extremely poetic book
… It’s clear that Gertz has done exhaustive research work … There is a lot to
learn from the interesting subject which she took upon herself to study.
Hadar Azran, Arutz 7
moving work … A sensitive author … Much knowledge, devotion, and mainly a
feeling heart, have been invested in this book, and it really does reach the
Moshe Granot, Iton 77
seven years Nurith Gertz worked on her book An Ocean Between Us, and she
wore both of her hats: that of the scholar tracking down every scrap of
information, and that of the author, sewing the seams of the story stitch by
stitch, without having known the characters personally. The result is gripping
… Gretz’s prose style is patient. The writing is rounded, feminine, clinging to
the words that describe the relations between these people, most of whose relations
are based upon words, upon letters.
Maya Guez, Club 50
Nurit Gertz is a wizard
at the complicated business of transforming serious and deep historical
research into fascinating and exquisite literature.
Yiftach Ashkenazy; Tzlil