1 out of 4 stars
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Keys to Tetouan by Mois Benarroch
This work of historical fiction is the story of Fernando Benzimra and his quest to find out more about his Jewish heritage. Fernando's father commissioned him to write down their history before it is forgotten, and this story is an account of his findings.
Fernando’s ancestors were part of a Jewish community that settled in Tetouan, Morocco after being expelled from Spain over 500 years ago. The reader is taken back in time to Morocco in the 1800’s when Fernando’s grandfather recalls his life in Tetouan. Fernando also tracks down relatives in Venezuela and Spain and we hear of their stories from 1914 and the 1940’s. Eventually the family move to Israel with great anticipation of going ‘home’, but it was not what they had expected.
I was looking forward to reading this book as I was not aware of the history of the Jews in Morocco, and was interested to find out what events led them to settle there, and what their experiences were like. However, I was disappointed because the book was so poorly written that it was very difficult to understand. Although written from the perspective of one central character we find out so little about him and his background. The narrative kept jumping from one situation to another, and between different countries and decades.
Half way through the book the storyline does become a little clearer, in particular when he speaks about his families move to Israel. This was the part that I found most interesting, and it gave me a greater understanding of the challenges faced by the Jewish population that have been scattered throughout the world.
As a work of historical fiction I was expecting there to be more of a story line, but there was no discernible plot, and the characters were underdeveloped. The author may have done better to write a history of the Jews in Tetouan rather than trying to write it into a story. The book needs further editing as there are many grammatical and spelling errors. More paragraphs would also improve the reading experience.
I would not recommend this book to anyone looking for a good story. It may appeal to someone who is interested in Jewish history, and looking for a personal perspective rather than an historical account.
I rate this book 1 out of 4 stars. It was so difficult to follow the narrative, and the story line and characters were so poor that the reader is left feeling confused and bored. The author obviously wanted to convey some of the experiences faced by the Jews, and he seems to have an in-depth knowledge of their history, but he did not achieve his objective with this book.
Keys to Tetouan
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