cover image The Hope

The Hope

Herman Wouk. Little, Brown and Company Inc, $24.95 (693pp) ISBN 978-0-316-95519-5

In the Historical Notes to this solid saga encapsulating three Israeli-Arab wars, Wouk makes astute reference to the element that gives the novel its considerable power: he refers to his ``arduous personal research . . . which is one reason that my books appear at long intervals.'' Conceding the impossibility of using ``cool perspective'' about events so recent and often still hotly debated, he then clarifies which episodes in the novel are based on fact. These accounts of specific battles, behind-the-scenes political skirmishes in Israel and diplomatic strategy in Washington, D.C., provide the novel's fascinating historical background and true drama. Among and between his accounts of the 1948 War of Independence, the Suez crisis and the Six-Day War, Wouk weaves a story of two protagonists and their fortunes in love and war. Young Polish immigrant Yossi Blumenthal first distinguishes himself in battle in such a reckless manner that he is dubbed Don Kishote; he goes on to become a military hero. His first commander, Zev Barak, is ``sidelined'' into diplomacy and becomes an attache in Washington. Such actual figures as David Ben Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir and others are depicted with candor and credibility. While his account is sympathetic to Israel, Wouk does not paint the Arabs with a tarred brush; nor does he put a false gloss on less-than-admirable episodes in the short history of the Jewish nation. Though his prose at times peregrinates into the pedestrian, Wouk has not lost his touch: this is an engrossing and often moving tale. (Dec.)