Published by: Astoria
Where I got the book: Public Library
My rating : 2 out of 5 stars
This book was my selection for the CanLit Bingo 2016 challenge: N11 Bookie Awards.
Chez l’arabe is a collection of interwoven stories that take place in Montreal. The collection focuses on themes of loss, health and illness, marriage undergoing trauma and divorce, parent and child relationships, particularly mothers and daughters. The book also focuses on diaspora and Jewish identity, and the confusion and sadness that comes with trying to find your place in the world.
I was so excited for this book and even now, days after reading it, it’s hard to explain how disappointed I was. I loved the cover, I’m a big fan of short stories and the whole book basically fell flat to me. Which was a surprise given the amount of praise this book has received. I didn’t realize that a bunch of the stories were connected until after the book because it wasn’t clear enough to me. So I read the entire book feeling that all the stories were too similar to each other. The connecting stories weren’t consistent enough between them or didn’t use enough elements other than the main character’s illness to link them. I couldn’t tell that the husband and the mother in half the stories were the same person and the description of the houses they lived in felt different each story.
I did enjoy a couple stories, such as “Shalom Israel!” and “Flower Watching” but they weren’t memorable enough to stick with me after. Silcoff’s writing was good but most of the stories felt like they had no purpose or conclusion, leaving me wondering after finishing what was the point. All of this was also compounded by the fact that I read the book over a couple days, tacking two stories each day. Maybe if I’d read it in one sitting I wouldn’t have gotten lost but overall I was just left with a feeling of having been left down by a book I’d hoped to enjoy.