Monday, April 27, 2009

Davita's Harp (1984)

Grownups very often do not realize how much their concerns and worries affect their young children. In this book by Chaim Potok, Ilana Davita Chandal is the daughter of Communist party members in New York in the 1930s. They fervently speak and write about the growing threat of Facism in Europe, specifically Spain. Surrounded by such passionate dedicated adults, it's no wonder that Ilana Davita focuses on two permanent items that follow her family through frequent moves; a door harp and a photograph of horses on a beach. The door harp (I have to have one of these!!!) sounds tones on stretched wires when the front door is opened.

As she grows, and the situation in Europe becomes more and more deadly, she becomes attracted to the rituals of the Jewish religions and the peace people find in them. She is obviously very bright and her parents are the type that never talk down to children and always answer their questions, even the really hard ones.

"My mother had tried to explain it to me, but I could not grasp it. Rebels agains Reds, Fascists against Communits, aristocrats and middle class agains workers, landowners against peasants. A brutally divided world. It seemed as if an ocean of blood had rolled across that land. None of my classmates talked about the war; few even knew about it. But somewhere in Spain was my father amidst bombs and shells and burned-out villages and fields littered with dead horses and human corpses. I was able to understand many of the words that I read in his articles, but I could not imagine a ruined village or a field of dead hroses and men. After a while I stopped reading my father's stories when I was alone at home at night."

Her mother was a Jewish immigrant and her father a New England Protestant but neither practiced their religions (being good Communists). She continued to be interested in Judaism, even learning Hebrew on her own, and attended a Hebrew school. No gentle molding of a young woman here. She was formed by world events of epic proportion.

I highly recommend this book to anyone tired of books about who's dating whom and individual's problems with drugs, alcohol, gangs, etc. This will open their eyes to the possibility that there is more out there affecting them and they need to lift their eyes and focus on the bigger picture.
My rating for this book: +++++

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