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Forest Dark

Forest Dark

Blurb

Eliezer Friedman is a larger than life ex-literary professor with a taste for luxury so his friends and family found it difficult to understand why months before his disappearance he chooses to start giving his possessions away.

Nicole is a celebrated Jewish author currently struggling in both her work life and her home life. Hoping for a way of finding herself she flees to Tel Aviv. Whilst there she meets Epstein and he tells her he has a mysterious proposition for her.


Our Review

Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss was not what you could call an easy read. In fact, there were several points whilst reading it where I almost gave up on it but I chose to persevere.  I still can’t decide if that was a good thing or not.

Forest Dark is a book you need utter concentration for and preferably total silence. I had neither and that is probably why I struggled. Have you ever read a book that made you feel like you weren’t quite smart enough to read it? This was one of those books for me. After finishing it I felt like I didn’t quite understand the point of it but that the fault lay with me and not with the book. After speaking to others who have read it I have found I am not the only one.

Having said all this I cannot say that I disliked this book, there were times when I loved it. It was beautifully written. Nicole Krauss’ writing style reminded me of Paulo Coelho, particularly the spiritual and theological themes which were present throughout the book.

What I am trying to say is that I enjoyed it even though it was hard work to read.

In terms of the layout of the book it was peppered with various photos of places relevant to the plot. The point of view alternated between the two main characters.

Eliezer Friedman is a larger than life ex-literary professor with a taste for luxury so his friends and family found it difficult to understand why months before his disappearance he chooses to start giving his possessions away.

Nicole is a celebrated Jewish author currently struggling in both her work life and her home life. Hoping for a way of finding herself she flees to Tel Aviv. Whilst there she meets Epstein and he tells her he has a mysterious proposition for her.

At the time of his disappearance, Epstein had been living in Tel Aviv for three months. He had rented an apartment but refused to let his family inside, preferring instead to meet his family at the Hilton for breakfast.

His family noticed other changes in him in the time leading up to his disappearance.

“In those final months Epstein had become difficult to reach. No longer did his answers come hurtling back regardless of the time of day or night. If before he’d always had the last word it was because he’d never not replied. But slowly, his messages had become more and more scarce. Time expanded between them because it had expanded in him…His family and friends became accustomed to his irregular silences, and so when he failed to answer anything at all during the first week of February, no one became instantly alarmed.”

All that was found of him in the police search was his briefcase abandoned in the desert.

This quote about how his family dealt with his disappearance also sums up how I felt after finishing the book:

“Jonah, Lucie, and Maya learned things about their father that they hadn’t known. But in the end, they got no closer to finding out what he meant by it all, or what had become of him.”

Prior to his disappearance Epstein had slowly been shedding himself of his money and possessions much to the chagrin of his family and the utter bewilderment of the executor of his will. He told his family he was getting rid of everything in order to create some thinking space.

Nicole is in the process of trying to write a book when we first meet her. She is suffering extreme writing block because all she can think about is her birthplace: The Hilton hotel in Tel Aviv.

One of the things that struck me when reading this was the correlation between Nicole’s life and the author’s own, in particular, her marital breakdown.

‘I was, as I’ve said, in a difficult place in my life and my work. The things I’d allowed myself to believe in – the unassailability of love, the power of narrative, which could carry people through their lives together without divergence, the essential health of domestic life – I no longer believed in. I had lost my way.”

One of my favourite things about Nicole Krauss’ writing is the way she described Tel Aviv and made it come alive for me.

“It was Winter in Tel Aviv, and as such the city didn’t make sense, being based around the sun and the sea, a Mediterranean city up at all hours that got more frenetic the later it became. Dirty leaves and pages of old newspapers blew down the streets, and sometimes people plucked them out of the air and put them over their heads to protect themselves from the occasional rain. The apartments were all cold because they had stone floors and during the hot months, which felt interminable, it seemed absurd to imagine it could ever be cold again, so no one bothered to install central heating.”

The religious history aspects of Forest Dark I could have done without but I enjoyed reading about Kafka.

I found this a difficult book to pin down but I enjoyed it none the less and can’t say I regret the time I spent reading it.

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

  • Currently 3.6/5

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