Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reviewing The Rocky Hill Stories

I review books for several venues, but it's rare that I learn much about the authors of books I review. Recently I was assigned this book: 

The Rocky Hill: Stories and Poems 
Author: Ilana Haley
Publisher: Xlibris
ISBN: 978-1-4415-8302-4
Rating: Three Stars (out of Five)

(Click on the title to read the complete review.)

It was an intriguing book, primarily because the author wrote of a world I could never imagine -- modern Israel and the kibbutz life. It was evident, however, that the author's first language was not American English, but it wasn't so remarkable that it detracted from the reading experience.

I suppose my noting that fact within the review was what inspired the author to contact me via email. Ilana Haley, it turns out, is a fascinating person.

At first, she was upset at the tone and conclusions of the review, but as we have corresponded, she's come to recognize, I think, that once I realized -- or assumed -- in reading the book that she was an Israeli I began to appreciate the intimacy with which she discussed the place and the people.

In noting that, I truly thought a prospective reader would come away with the idea that it was a unique effort, especially considering (as I said) it was "a blend of the exotic and personal, rooted in the experience of modern Israel ... "

I suppose my email correspondence have been some comfort to Haley. However, she remains deeply frustrated with the imperfect editing process of her publisher as she translated the book from Hebrew to English.

All I know is that learning more about an author does change a reviewer's perspective. Now, if I were to write the same review, I might say that the author's syntax and English grammar -- Hebrew being her mother tongue -- gives a special authenticity and charm, illustrating she is authentically rooted in Israel, in the kibbutz, and in all the struggles of Israel as it flowered after the Holocaust.

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