Alma Weber, a 40 something divorcee and the author of a bestselling novel, returns to Tel Aviv after a brief writing holiday, only to discover that her lover, Gideon Sorek--a senior Mossad official--has disappeared in England. This is the beginning of Be’er’s dizzying, erudite book which combines a love story with the search for an elusive, secret-shrouded mother in Germany, and the powerful desire to write a novel.
Alma makes a living from a lab that converts old cassettes into digital discs. Gideon, a customer, has brought her old tapes found among his late mother’s belongings. The two become friends and then lovers, and Gideon asks Alma to help him realize his dream: to write a historical novel about the anxious time in Palestine when people feared an invasion by the German army under Rommel. Alma persuades Gideon to switch subjects and to write about his mother, Lotte Struk, who was born in Leipzig, left for Palestine in 1934 and enlisted in British Intelligence. Gideon wonders whether his mother ever interrogated German prisoners in Egypt, but his friends in British Intelligence refuse to open Lotte’s still-classified file. Gideon and Alma visit Leipzig, but although they uncover family secrets, as well as the story of Leipzig’s Jews, Gideon has writer’s block. So he flies to England, holes up in a remote village in East Hampshire and at last is able to write. Then he can come back to life—and Alma is waiting for him.
PARTIAL ENGLISH TRANSLATIOM AVAILABLE (for publishers only).
Any novel by Haim Be’er is a delight, an intriguing journey among treasures of historical and cultural lore, both Jewish and universal. This is also true of his latest novel.
A fascinating forgotten tale about that dramatic era of the Jewish community in Palestine.
It’s always marvelous to plunge into a Haim Be’er novel, with its singular characters, rich prose, and the mischievousness that slips in between the lines.