cover image Miral


Rula Jebreal, trans. from the Italian by John Cullen, Penguin, $15 paper (310p) ISBN 978-0-14-311619-6

This novel of a Palestinian girl growing up amid the intifada is packed with historical facts, but never rises above mediocrity. Philanthropist Hind Husseini creates a children's shelter in 1948 in response to the destruction wrought by the first Arab-Israeli war. Decades later, Miral comes into Hind's care after her mother kills herself. As Miral witnesses the effects of the Israeli campaigns against the intifada, she draws closer to the political fringes, finally choosing to join the struggle in full. Yet the benevolent influence of Hind and an eye-opening friendship with an Israeli socialist subdues Miral's radicalism and offers some hope for the future. Jebreal is a successful journalist in Italy, and true to form the plot rips along with quick-reading prose, though the characters' simplicity presents a big problem, in that, despite the dire circumstances, it's hard to connect with archetypes. It's perfectly serviceable and offers a reliable refresher of the Palestinian struggle, but there are many more distinguished novels on the subject. (Sept.)