Title: The Marrying of Chani Kaufman
Author: Eve Harris
First published August 1, 2013
350 pages, Paperback
ISBN: 9781908737434 (ISBN10: 1908737433)
Meet Chani Kaufman, a 19-year-old girl living in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community of North West London. She has never had any physical contact with a man, yet she is bound to marry a stranger.
Under the guidance of the rabbi’s wife, Chani learns the ways of being a Jewish wife. But as she navigates through the strict traditions and customs of her community, she begins to question her own desires and aspirations.
Meanwhile, the rabbi’s wife, Rivka, is grappling with her own secrets and desires. As buried truths and sexual tensions come to the fore, Chani and Rivka are forced to make choices that will change their lives forever.
Told with raw honesty and compassion, this is a story of liberation, choice, and the complexities of love and desire – including what happens on the wedding night.
About the Author
Meet Eve Harris, a London-born author with a unique cultural background. Born to Israeli-Polish parents in Chiswick in 1973, Eve spent 12 years teaching at both inner-city and independent schools in London and Tel Aviv.
After moving to Israel in 1999, she returned to London in 2002 to teach at an all girls’ Catholic convent school. Eve drew inspiration for her novel, ‘The Marrying of Chani Kaufman’ from her final year of teaching at an ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in North West London.
Now, Eve resides in London with her husband, Jules, and their daughter Rosie.
Eve Harris’s debut novel, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, is a beautifully written exploration of love, tradition, and faith. Set within the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of North London, this novel presents a compelling portrait of a closed community that resists change, and the young couple who fall in love despite the restrictions of their world.
Harris, a former teacher in an Ultra-Orthodox school, brings an insider’s knowledge and perspective to her writing, infusing the novel with rich cultural and religious detail. The story centers around Chani Kaufman, a young woman who has been raised to value modesty and obedience above all else.
She is promised to Baruch Levy, a serious and studious man who is regarded as a catch within the community. However, when Rabbi Ronsky introduces the handsome and charismatic Yossi into her life, Chani discovers a spark of passion that she never knew existed.
The novel is poignant in its portrayal of Chani and Yossi’s budding romance, which is fraught with tension and danger. Harris captures the urgency and intensity of their love while navigating the strict boundaries of their religious observance.
The novel’s themes of love and tradition are mirrored in the parallel storyline of Rabbi Ronsky’s own struggles with his faith and his role within the community. Harris’s prose is evocative and lyrical, with descriptions that are both lush and spare.
The novel is told from multiple perspectives, which is at times disorienting but ultimately adds to the richness of the story. The author’s careful attention to detail and sensitivity to the complexities of the community make for a nuanced and empathetic portrayal.
One of the novel’s greatest strengths is its depiction of the tension between tradition and modernity. The Marrying of Chani Kaufman reflects on the deep-seated beliefs that religious communities hold, and the conflicts that arise when those beliefs are challenged.
There is an inherent tension between preserving the past and embracing the changes of the present, and Harris captures this dichotomy with great skill. However, while the novel is beautifully written and deeply affecting, it is not without its flaws.
The pacing is slow at times, and the structure can feel disjointed. Additionally, some of the minor characters are not fully fleshed out, and the ending is somewhat ambiguous.
Despite these criticisms, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman is a stunning work of literature that speaks to issues of cultural identity and faith in a way that is universal. It is, at its core, a love story that is both heartbreaking and hopeful.
With a deep understanding of the complexities of the Ultra-Orthodox community, Harris provides a nuanced and compassionate portrait of a world that is often misunderstood. Overall, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman is a beautifully crafted novel that is both thought-provoking and emotionally resonant.
It is highly recommended for anyone who appreciates literary fiction, as well as those interested in exploring the complexities of faith and tradition.