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November Book of the Month: Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen. Join the webchat with the author and her translator on Monday 14 November, 9pm.

(109 Posts)
UrsulaMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 06-Oct-16 17:24:00

November's book of the month is the gripping literary thriller Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen.

You can expect to miss your stop and lose hours to this consuming tale, based on a true event, about a respected Israeli neurosurgeon whose split-second decision one evening leaves him spiralling into a web of deception, corruption and guilt.

Apply for one of 50 free copies before 14 October, read the book over the next few weeks and join us back here on 14 November 9-10pm to discuss it and put questions to Ayelet and the book's translator, Sondra Silverston.

If you're not lucky enough to bag a free copy, we'd still love for you to come and join in the discussion - buy a paperback here.

horseyrider Thu 20-Oct-16 20:27:35

My copy arrived today. Really looking forward to starting it!

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 21-Oct-16 11:52:33

We're sorry we didn't get round to notifying you before the books arrived, the publisher beat us to it blush. We will drop an email before the end of the day to all those who were selected. If you haven't been lucky, then do buy a copy and join the discussion.

CountTessa Wed 26-Oct-16 10:21:49

Got my copy too. Sounds really exciting. Just got to finish the Wonder Boys first.

horseyrider Fri 28-Oct-16 14:53:47

Just finished my copy. Good beginning, interesting focus on the doctors guilt in chapter two. Fascinating to read about life in Israel. Not my usual type of thriller though.

jammy388 Fri 28-Oct-16 16:19:48

I never guessed how this was going to end, and it raised all sorts of questions about guilt, morality, racism and judging others, with no easy answers. The main characters seemed complex and believable, though the surgeon's wife seemed incredibly well organised in view of her demanding job. The narrative was flowing - a tribute to both author and translator I think - though noticeably Americanised for a UK reader.

OhNoNotMyBaby Fri 28-Oct-16 20:04:47

I have to admit I've given up today. I feel it's a 'worthy' book but I'm finding it very difficult to plough through. The plot is a very interesting one, as are the the themes - racism, exile, atonement, truth - but I can't get engaged.

The over-lengthy examinations of sleep - the insistence on the importance of reconnecting by telling your dreams.... the sorting laundry as an example of how separate but connected we are... the intricate detail of cutting out labels from shirts.. Sorry, but I don't want this kind of stuff in the books I read.

I think this is my problem rather than the author's or translators' - I do think the book poses challenging and interesting questions but tbh, I don't have the energy to engage. My life revolves around children, money, money, money, will I be made redundant next week...

The failing is mine, not the book's.

minsmum Sat 29-Oct-16 22:33:49

I have now suggested this for our next book club read. What a fabulous choice of book. Can I ask how you picked it?

FawnDrench Sun 30-Oct-16 13:01:51

Thank you for the copy of the "Waking Lions", which I was looking forward to reading.
Well I have stalwartly persevered and managed to finish it, though I doubted I would actually manage to reach the end of the book at times.

It's an interesting book, but somewhat repetitive in its relentless examination and comparisons of guilt, desire, sexism, discrimination, greed and retribution, and many other emotions.
I didn't think it really answered any of the angst-ridden conundrums it posed, as practically everyone in the book was guilty of something and their actions were justifiable (to them at least)

The first half of the book was far too long, but the second half was much better and had a more exciting feel to it, as the story developed at last.

I became increasingly irritated with the over-use of brackets throughout the text, finding it cumbersome and unnecessary. Don't know if this was because the book was translated or not, but either way, it was very annoying.

No mention of a lion until over 200 pages in, and even then it was a tenuously linked anecdote.
Should have had a better title - goodness knows there were enough similes and metaphors to inspire the author, rather than "waking lions", which was a bit daft really.

The story was engaging but I couldn't warm to any of the characters, and the wife being a detective was very convenient.

I think this would be a good read for a Book Club as it would probably promote a lot of discussion and debate.

So all in all, I'm glad I read it, but sadly, the book didn't grip me in the way I was hoping it would.

aristocat Mon 31-Oct-16 14:56:13

A very interesting book which I enjoyed, so different to my usual thriller books.

My main concern was that Eitans behaviour after the accident was quite unbelievable. However this is central to the story. Who knows how we would react to a situation like this?

It was a challenging read for me and I also noticed the overuse of brackets, why?

Rae1000 Tue 01-Nov-16 13:33:46

Just starting to read now. Seems much more of a read than my usual "swich off" books. I like that though. Will update soon! Thanks

Angelasw Sat 05-Nov-16 13:09:01

I loved, loved, loved this book. Compulsive reading. So glad I picked up the post. Read late into the night and will follow this author.

It was a story around an easy to imagine event, turning into a nightmare scenario, with unpredictable consequences which got worse with time for the poor narrator himself, then his family and his work. At the same time, it was fascinating how two of the main characters changed in their feelings towards each other as time went on - brought on by being forced out of their comfort zones and previous life experience.

My type of book. Thanks Mumsnet. Wish I hadn't deleted thread of recommendationspace on books in translation from anot her language

Belo Sun 06-Nov-16 15:14:08

Thanks for my copy of the book mumsnet. I've started reading it and it has cooked me even in my current jetlagged state!

Is it too early to ask Ayelet a (perhaps ignorant) question? Or, perhaps somebody else knows the answer? Liat refers to herself as being in a minority group and coming from Or Akiva. I think of Israel as being a Jewish state (whether that is right or wrong is another matter). But, within the Jewish race in Israel are there different ethnic minorities some of whom suffer from discrimination? I like to think that as Jewish people have themselves been the subject of discrimination they would not discriminate against other members of their faith. Am I being naive?

Belo Sun 06-Nov-16 15:14:31

Thanks for my copy of the book mumsnet. I've started reading it and it has cooked me even in my current jetlagged state!

Is it too early to ask Ayelet a (perhaps ignorant) question? Or, perhaps somebody else knows the answer? Liat refers to herself as being in a minority group and coming from Or Akiva. I think of Israel as being a Jewish state (whether that is right or wrong is another matter). But, within the Jewish race in Israel are there different ethnic minorities some of whom suffer from discrimination? I like to think that as Jewish people have themselves been the subject of discrimination they would not discriminate against other members of their faith. Am I being naive?

BagelGoesWalking Wed 09-Nov-16 00:37:18

Belo yes, there is still a lot of discrimination/prejudice in Israel.
There are divisions between the Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jews and Sephardic Jews (darker skinned Jews from mainly Arab countries, such as Morocco, Yemen, Syria etc).

The state's original "builders" and statesmen, army generals were nearly all Ashkenazi Jews, who were usually more educated, considered more cultured etc. Broadly, coming from Western Europe where education was probably more accessible and possible. Therefore, mainstream society until pretty recently was "built" using this bias of supposed superiority.

So you might presume that your Dr, lawyer and businessman might be from Ashkenazi stock and your builder, greengrocer and bank worker (but not bank manager) would be Sephardic. So programmes, radio etc would play music or feature characters using these general stereotypes. Sephardic Jews (again using stereotypes to demonstrate the point) would listen to more Arab-sounding music, think belly dancing versus Fiddler on the Roof style violins, say. One was considered "higher" culturally than the other. This is changing however and I think the younger generation there are much more equal and non-judgemental and will even out in future (although not completely).

Unfortunately, the Ethiopian Jews who were airlifted to Israel and, in the main, extremely religiously observant, were treated very badly, which can only be racism, I'm afraid.

You can see these stereotypes played out in the kind of jokes you would hear (in the late 80s/90s anyway) : Moroccans were the stupid ones, Persian (Parsi) Jews were the stingy ones etc.

Also, huge divisions between religious and non-religious groups, most people are very secular but religious groups hold a lot of power for their small numbers in elections, because of the proportional representation system, where a party with under 10 seats can hold the balance of power when trying to form a government. Therefore, they can make deals with the bigger political party which keeps religious bias higher on the agenda than it should be.

Sorry for the long essay, just my opinion obviously, but I did live there for nearly 10 years; it's complicated just like all things in the Middle East smile (hope it makes some kind of sense!)

Hygellig Wed 09-Nov-16 11:05:55

I enjoyed this book a lot.

I would like to ask Ayelet if she considered exploring the ethical and emotional dimensions of alternative scenarios. For example if Eitan hadn't left his wallet at the scene, it's unlikely that the police would have found that he was the hit and run driver, but having a death on his conscience might have had major repercussions on his life - or he might have gradually found himself thinking about it less and less.

I was also wondering if the novel has raised awareness of the plight of migrant workers and refugees in Israel.

To Sondra Silverston I would like to ask if there were any particular difficulties in translating the novel, for example turns of phrase that don't have an exact equivalent in English?

Belo Sat 12-Nov-16 07:53:14

Thank you Bagelgoeswalking for such a detailed answer! Really appreciated. Reading what you've said has made me think back to Linda Grant's book 'When I Lived in Modern Times' which is about the early days of the modern state Israel. I read that 15+ years ago. I'm going to have a search on my shelves and see if I've still got that. This book has certainly made me more interested in reading about / around the area.

cavylover Sun 13-Nov-16 09:58:18

An interesting moral tale which asks the question of the reader what they would do in the same situation? A complex but nevertheless absorbing story from start to end.

Belo Sun 13-Nov-16 10:43:44

All chores were ignored yesterday and I finished the book. The last 100 pages were compulsive reading!

As to the ending, did I miss something or has it been left open ended as to whether Eitan goes back to work in the hospital or not? To me it was unclear what we going to do (be allowed to do) next. My question to Ayelet is what does she see Eitan doing next? I think he's going to take some time off work and spend time concentrating on his wife and children. Eventually he will decide he wants to work for a humanitarian aid organisation.

Hygellig Sun 13-Nov-16 19:43:28

Belo, I assumed that he would resume his normal life, but some ambiguity remained at the end. It was interesting to consider the moral repercussions of not handing himself in at the time of the hit and run; for one thing, it led to the death of Mona; on the other hand, he saved many lives both in his day job and as a garage doctor. If I read about a hit and run in the news, my reaction would be utter loathing for the driver not only for driving dangerously but also for not handing themselves in.

Further questions to Ayelet and Sondra:

1. Rregarding the translation, did you cooperate at all before or during the translation process? How long did it take to translate? Ayelet, have you read your book in English and, if so, is it strange to read it in another language?

2. What research did you do for the novel, for example, was it possible to meet African refugees or migrants to talk about their experiences?

3. Are there any plans to adapt it for TV or film?

4. Ayelet, do you have any plans for future novels? I wish you all the best for your birth of your baby.

Hygellig Sun 13-Nov-16 19:46:53

Also I wonder if Eitan felt less guilty when he learned that Asum was a wife beater and drug mule?

lisalisa Sun 13-Nov-16 21:44:42

Ooh Yes please. I'm really looking for a different genre of reading material and this sounds right up my street !

CountTessa Mon 14-Nov-16 14:58:20

I am finding Sirkit a a fascinating character and would love to know more from her side. For such a central player, I'm wondering Ayelet if it was a conscious decision to marginalise her so much and depict her as the strong wild brave African woman, yet one who is so hidden in Israeli society?

Givemecoffeeplease Mon 14-Nov-16 15:07:17

Loving this so much. Are you medically trained to speak so fluently about drugs, operations, doctors' lives etc? And how has that impacted on the novel??

bogglebonce Mon 14-Nov-16 18:27:31

An interesting book from start to finish, not my normal type of 'read' a bit heavy at times but worthwhile in the end, thank you Mumsnet for my book.

todormirchev Mon 14-Nov-16 19:23:54

Thank you Mumsnet for the free copy of "Waking Lions".I enjoy reading the book a lot.
I want to ask the autor Ayelet Gundar-Goshen: If there is a film adaptation of the book in the future, which actor and actress would she like to see playing the lead characters from "Waking Lions?"

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