Disobedience by Naomi Alderman

Ronit Krushka left behind her Orthodox Jewish community in London and moved to New York when she was 18.  In New York, she became a successful businesswoman, with a less than successful love life.  When her father dies, she has to go back to London and face her past.  Her wise-cracking, provocative manner shocks the community in which she grew up, but Ronit finds that she is not above being shocked by what she discovers both about herself and her former best friends Dovid and Esti…

Disobedience is a fascinating novel, which as well as being an entertaining account of three people facing their past (and their present), also offers an insight into the world of Orthodox Judaism.  In each chapter there is a short reading from the Torah, with an explanation of it’s meaning.  From there, the narrative switches between the third person, giving an objective view of what is happening, and Ronit’s first person narrative in which she describes events from her viewpoint.

The three main characters – Ronit, Dovid and Esti are all very well drawn and fully rounded characters.  Although Ronit is the only one of the three to narrate parts of the story, I felt that we got to know them all equally.  The peripheral characters were also depicted very well.  I really liked Ronit – her behaviour was sometimes deliberately outrageous or unfair – but her motives for this were explained in her own quick witted way.  I also thought Esti was a very interesting and somewhat enigmatic character.

The writing itself flowed well, weaving the different parts of the story together very well.  I enjoyed reading about the Jewish traditions and way of life, and how it was for someone who had formerly lived in that community to feel like an outsider.

Overall, an enjoyable book and an author I will definitely be keeping an eye open for in future.

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