You know when you get a book hangover, and you just can’t move onto a new book even though you’ve finished the previous one? Yeah. The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris did that to me. It’s been two days, and I’m still not ready to leave those characters behind. You may recognize the title as Harris’ debut novel was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2013.
The novel is set in the contemporary world of Orthodox Jews in London. I’ve read a fair bit about the Jewish communities in Montreal and New York, but never London. Chani Kaufman is at the marrying age, but finding a suitable husband is more difficult that is should be due to her exuberant personality. In walks Baruch. The novel also delves into the lives of various characters surrounding Chani and Baruch and how they negotiate living life as an Orthodox Jew in a city teeming with modernity and potential attractions.
One of the things that really drew me into The Marrying of Chani Kaufman was the way love and marriage were approached. The relationships of several older couples, and their love, were explored early in the novel. It is not often that one encounters such passionate and love filled relationships among middle aged couples. These relationships contrast nicely with the apprehensions and preparations Chani must go through as she prepares for marriage and a world of unknowns. This insight into the world of Orthodox Jewish women was something I adored.
Who would like this book? Someone like me! I have always been drawn to books set in Orthodox Jewish communities. Chaim Potok was one of my favorite writers as a teen (odd, I know) and I love the insight into a world I have no access to. Beyond that, it is a gripping story that is beautifully written. I would also put it alongside other books about semi-exclusive groups living in London, such as Brick Lane by Monica Ali. Finally, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman deserved its place on the long list for the Man Booker so this book would appeal to those who use the Booker as a standard.
I received a copy of the book from the Canadian publisher, House of Anansi Press, in exchange for a fair and honest review.