I started to read To the End of the Land by David Grossman and immediately recognised I was in the hands of an exceptional writer.
The prologue is a very fine piece of writing. It reminds me of the best of Russell Hoban and Gunter Grass. Dark and strange, haunting. I read line after line not knowing where I was going but confident that Grossman was beside me, ready to catch me should I stumble.
I knew he would not stumble.
There is no greater gift a writer can give a reader than confidence in their ability to take us all the way to the very end of their tale. Especially, as in this case, if you suspect the story will take you far… well out of your comfort zone.
Beyond the prologue a vast complicated world opens up.
There is noise and divorce, Arab/Israeli tension, sweat, miscommunication, suspicion, regret, loss, fear… and love. A love too strong, overwhelming, a love of a mother for her child, a love that is cruel in it’s intensity and therefore suspect, questioned, avoided and despaired of.
Grossman gives us a glimpse of an Israel that is complicated, self-consciously so – not one character can think, let alone speak without finding themselves entangled in hundreds of associated thoughts – of history, so much history, of religion, of past wrongs, of future wrongs, of hope and of resignation.
To the End of the Land is dark and intense but it is also compelling, gripping and well worth every lost illusion.
This is not easy reading, but then, when did anything good come easily?