How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less – Sarah Glidden

This is the story of the author’s stay in Israel. As an American Jew she journeys to her motherland on an organised tour to learn more about this complex and troubled nation. It is part travelogue, part diary and part history lesson. As an outsider visiting somewhere so talked about we get to peel back our preconceptions and learn more through a firsthand description.

This is an honest and emotional account that seeks to record the whole experience. Being part of a tour she is able to show the myriad points of view that people hold about Jews and the Middle East. She regularly questions the information she is given and is always open about her own views and preconceptions.

The author tries to take a balanced and humanistic view of the current conflict. This is a journey of real people not dry politics. We see how individuals are living their lives in the shadow of something they can’t control. The little details are important and give us a connection to this far away land and its people, people just like us.

The events are told in the third person with the author appearing as a character in her own tale. Sometimes the action will stop and we will pause for an explanation or a history lesson to help us understand what we are seeing. This is an effective technique and we have no trouble feeling as if we too are tagging along, maybe on the seat behind her on the coach.

The art is fantastic. We use the traditional straight panel layout like a Herge or Briggs work to capture that documentary authenticity. Each individual panel is hand drawn and then painted in watercolours. If you look closely you can see where the pigment has flowed over the lines. This lends it a supreme credibility. Like the holiday snap we are looking at exactly what the author saw. The sheer amount of time it must have taken to hand illustrate the entire book is incredible and it makes you pay attention as whatever is depicted must be important. Occasionally something whimsical makes an appearance such the ghost of a long dead historical figure but rather than alienating us it draws us in deeper to the author’s thoughts and feelings.

This is an excellent work. There is a timeline, glossary and bibliography to stop you getting lost in the more academic parts. But the star quality is the fact that it is about real people talking, feeling and experiencing something significant. Thumbs Up!

64/301.

Tomorrow: Covert Vampiric Operations: Volume One – Alex Garner. PLUS bonus review: Will you still love me if I wet the bed? – Liz Prince

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