Winds of war over Israel
The Hope by Herman Wouk Hodder/Little Brown $205 BLOCKBUSTER historical novelist Herman Wouk has drawn on the cataclysmic events that saw the birth of Israel and the fledgling nation's tortured struggle for survival for his latest work.
Weaving fiction into historical fact with the fluid skill of an indisputably master storyteller, Wouk recaptures the crazy mood of euphoria which gripped ordinary Tel Aviv citizens during the first weeks of Israeli independence.
But as Tel Aviv celebrated, David Ben Gurion and his senior advisers - surrounded by Arab armies, cut off from Jerusalem and pitifully armed - were desperately casting for ways to ensure that the tiny nation would not be snuffed out within its first weeks of existence.
Into this arena Mr Wouk implants a coterie of fictitious characters, some loosely based on famous Israeli leaders and soldiers, and others, like Moshe Dayan, Menachem Begin and Golda Meir, who are depicted fearlessly as characters in their own right - warts and all.
The Hope spans the 20 years between independence and the Six Day War, zooming in on the intrigue, the scheming, the personal conflicts and the private lives of the men and women waging the war on the battlefield, in the Cabinet Room and the bedroom.
The central characters, all close to the ailing Prime Minister Ben Gurion as he wrestles with the achingly lonely decisions of state, open to the reader a close-up view of the lives of people who made history.
Against the historical background, however, Mr Wouk introduces the peppery ingredients of romance and political intrigue.
The story centres on four Israeli soldiers whose lives are inexorably shaped by the long war; and of the women they love, in and out of wedlock.
Zev Barak, a young officer, is put into service as an aide to Ben Gurion after being wounded in battle and climbs through the ranks until he becomes one of the army's major liaison links with the American Government and CIA.
In the process he meets the teenaged daughter of his CIA counterpart, and she launches a decades-long and initially chaste bid to win his affection.
Dedicated to his wife and children, he nevertheless begins a correspondence with the infatuated young woman which culminates in a series of assignations, most of which do little more than raise their passion-suppression thresholds.
Mr Wouk's characters pulsate with energy and life and draw the reader into their world. It is difficult, watching Barak's stiff resistance slowly wilt as he succumbs to the temptations of his young admirer, not to will him to get on with it or end it; sosuccessfully does Mr Wouk allow the reader to immerse himself in the pages of this work.
The Hope reveals the pressures that faced a people who were waging conventional war in deserts virtually on the outskirts of their towns and villages and of the effect those pressures exerted on their everyday lives.
It takes the reader through battles for the fort city of Latrun, which controlled the road to Jerusalem, through the tortuous task of building Israel's own Burma Road to bypass Latrun after several sieges failed - with devastating cost of life for the Israelis - to the Suez War campaign when the French and British Governments persuaded Israel to invade Egypt as a military prelude to their own bid to send in forces to unseat President Nasser; and finally to the nation's greatest victory, the Six Day War.
Few who read The Hope will fail to gain meaningful new insights into the historical forces which instilled such fighting spirit in a people so outnumbered and so out-gunned by their enemies.
And as a work of fiction it succeeds commendably in turning history into a spell-binding tale of love, war, and intrigue.
Wouk homes in on the 20 years between Israel's independence and the Six Day War in his latest blockbuster