I wish I had the discipline (and the time) to review each and every book I read, as soon as I finish it. I finished My Name is Asher Lev, back in June. Other things, other books, other reviews just got in the way. It is a bad idea to wait an entire month to review a book, but I'll give it a shot. To the best of my recollection.
Anway -- Asher Lev was a gift from my good friend Amanda, who used to blog about books but now mostly blogs about other things. I put this on my TBR 2013 Challenge list because I didn't want the entire list to be books by authors that had been dead for years and years (Potok did pass away in 2002, but he's pretty contemporary compared to the rest of this list).
So, Asher Lev is an artist, and he begins his story by telling the reader that he is most famous for creating a painting of a crucifixion, a blasphemy for an observant Jew. He's not just an observant Jew -- Asher was raised an orthodox Jew, a Hasidic, very traditional and conservative. Asher lives in New York and was born shortly after WWII, and it is the life's work of his father to help other Jews in Europe, so that they can practice their faith safely. His mother is studying Russian to be able to help persecuted Jews in Russia.
However, young Asher has different ideas. As long as he can remember, he's been obsessed with drawing and painting. It's part of him, he can't stop doing it, much to the chagrin of his father, who believes that he's just wasting his time on frivolity -- Asher's father wants him to do something to glorify God and help other Jews. Every day, Asher struggles with his need to create art against his family's wishes -- he wants to please his father, and win his love, but his art is a part of him. This is the story of his coming of age, as a young man and an artist, and how he tries to reconcile the two.
I wasn't sure I wanted to read another book about an artist after my disappointment with The Masterpiece by Emile Zola, which I finished a couple of months ago. In that book, the main character was so obsessed by his art he lets it ruin his life and the lives of the people around him. This book is quite different. Asher is really struggling to satisfy his need to create art and his need to please his family. It's a really interesting character study. I'd never read anything by Chaim Potok, but the writing was excellent and the characters interesting and well-developed. I took a few art history classes in college but I really don't know much about modern art. I don't think Asher is necessarily based on a particular artist, but I tried to imagine what his art might have looked like. I was also quite pleased that I recognized most of the real artists and works of art mentioned in the book, like Chagall and Modigliani, and Picasso's Guernica.
|La Mariee by Marc Chagall.|