…a strong statement, eh?
Well I feel that it’s true, because Mornings in Jenin was, without a doubt, one of the most real, raw and emotional books I have ever read.
Forcibly removed from the ancient village of Ein Hod by the newly formed state of Israel in 1948, the Abulhejas are moved into the Jenin refugee camp. There, exiled from his beloved olive groves, the family patriarch languishes of a broken heart, his eldest son fathers a family and falls victim to an Israeli bullet, and his grandchildren struggle against tragedy toward freedom, peace, and home. This is the Palestinian story, told as never before, through four generations of a single family.
The characters, spanning several generations of one family (plus other families too), draw you in so much and you feel like you know them personally by the end of the novel. This is only reinforced by the beautiful writing, which is wonderfully descriptive and emotive, interspersed with some poetry. Although the narrative certainly jumps all over the place with regards to timescale, which I know some people are not a fan of, and this can sometimes be quite confusing, even so it doesn’t take long at all to work out what time period you are reading about.
The lives of people growing up and living in Palestine from the 1940’s onwards is unimaginable; I can’t begin to imagine having to live in constant fear and terror and most of us, thankfully, will never have to experience this. It is incredible how many of them seem to remain so positive in their day to day lives, and this is really very humbling. This book certainly makes you appreciate how easy we have it in the western world.
Sometimes I felt like I couldn’t go on reading the book because it was so emotional and, at times, so sad and injust, but I’m glad I kept reading. You can’t always bury your head in the sand with these matters and although the characters are fictional the events and places are all too real.
For a good few days after finishing this book I felt quite dazed and I kept thinking about the characters and story – but I’m so so glad I read it!
I feel like Susan Abulhawa could have really made the Palestinians out to be completely innocent in the entire conflict, but characters do awknowledge and discuss the awful situation for Jews after WW2 and the circumstances that led up to the conflict, which is sadly still raging on today. Both sides have reasons to be sympathised with in different ways, but this novel obviously focuses on the lives of the Palestinians who have to deal with losing their homes and, for many, most of their families. I feel that the novel tells it very well and doesn’t seem overly preachy or biased.
As I write this review I kind of feel like anything I say about Mornings in Jenin won’t do it justice, so all I will say is just give it a go- you won’t regret it; it is very sad and poignant at times but it is a really beautiful novel.