“Scenes from Village Life” by Amos Oz

Oct 26, 2011 by

"Scenes from Village Life" by Amos OzThis is not going to be one of my typical reviews, as this is not your typical book.  Instead, within these pages you will find a novel comprised of short stories.  I have only read a book like this once before, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, though I’m sure there are more like this.

The novel showcases a single village in the Israeli countryside, Tel Ilan, from several different angles.  It is a small village, and everyone seems to know everyone else.  Their stories are interwoven with the same people, showing up in different places or even assuming the role of narrator for a story. There is also the use of repetition across stories or even within a story which may be a result of the translation, but I liked to think of it as giving a sense of multiple storytellers, or of a story often told.

Tel Ilan could be seen as a parable or analogy for small villages anywhere, as one of the main themes through the book concerns change, specifically reconstruction and modernization.  The village is one hundred years old, and is slowly being rebuilt and replaced by newer buildings.  Farming is no longer the main occupation of the villagers; instead the farms are being sold off and shops, boutiques and art galleries are being opened.  The older villagers are returning to the cities, while city residents are rushing to the village on weekends.  The different narrators offer different viewpoints on these developments and it is rather intriguing to see how they all live and work together within the village.

Amos Oz has created a quiet, though somehow haunting prose within these pages.  It is completely character driven, which is something I don’t usually enjoy.  I have never taken so long to sit and write a review before; this book is hard to write about because while I was reading it, only incomplete thoughts and phrases filled my mind.  Overall, it is impossible not to see the simple beauty within these characters.

Scenes from Village Life
by Amos Oz
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
192 pages
Source: ARC from publisher

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