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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Lady With the Hat (The)
by Uri Orlev
Age Range: 12+
Seventeen-year-old Yulek arrives in his home town in Poland to find everything changed. He is fulfilling a promise he made to his father, who died in a concentration camp, to one day return to Poland to see if any of his family has survived the war. His family home is now being in lived in by a Pole and the inhabitants of the town are hostile making him feel unwelcome. Suddenly Yulek feels completely alone.
Yulek decides he wants to build a new life in Palestine and travels to Italy where he joins a transit camp for Jews who wish to emigrate. Here he meets Theresa, a Jewish girl who was saved from the Nazis by Catholic nuns. After endless waiting Yulek, along with a group of other Jews, attempt to enter Palestine as illegal immigrants.
Meanwhile, Melanie a mysterious English woman, married to an aristocrat in England, is desperately striving to find any surviving members of her family. After seeing a newspaper photograph of a young man with strikingly similar features to her long lost brother, she decides to travel to Italy and then Palestine to discover the truth.
The Lady with the Hat is a perceptive and suspenseful story. It is a moving tale of love, sorrow and a complicated search for identity and companionship. Israeli author Uri Orlov always writes a good story with an authenticity that is usually based on fact. However, this novel is not quite as powerful as his other novels. The use of third-person narrative rather than first-person doesn’t seem to provide the intensity that is present in The Island on Bird Street or Man from the Other Side. Nevertheless, the issues of being a displaced person and a Jewish homeland are treated sympathetically - the transit camps for Jews in Italy, the British position on Palestine, treatment of illegal immigrants and the dislike of the British and the Kibutz way of life are all touched on.
Written in 1990 and translated from Hebrew by Hillel Halkin in 1995. Winner of the Mildred L Batchelder Award in 1996.
Other titles by Orlov reviewed on the website are: The Island on Bird Street (1984), The Man from the Other Side (1991), Lydia, Queen of Palestine, (1995), and Run, Boy, Run (2003).