Martin Fletcher, veteran Middle East reporter, crafts an historical fiction story set in 1960’s Israel. His main characters are brothers Arie and Peter Nesher, along with Tamara, a young refugee from Cairo. In truth, the brothers are refugees as well. Peter escaped Hitler’s Germany when his parents sent him to America as a teen. Arie survived the concentration camps, and fled to Israel.
The brothers couldn’t be more different. Peter is an intelligence officer with Mossad. Arie is a talented businessman, with questionable morals. But the one thing they have in common is Tamara.
Fletcher’s characters are well-developed, and the families they build are absorbing. The arc of history at that time is one I’m mostly unfamiliar with. Learning the details from one who experienced them adds layers of depth to this book.
The author touches on the Holocaust, the challenges of building a new country in a hostile land, as well as the efforts of Israeli intelligence to right past wrongs done to Jews. He also discusses the attitudes and perspective of three Israeli generations.
The historical aspects of Promised Land intrigued me. I’d like to do more reading about this time and people’s experience in it. In fact, I have a memoir and another novel on my shelves right now.
I appreciated knowing that Fletcher had concrete, real-life experience. It shows in his writing, although it occasionally became dry as a news report. On the whole, though, I was drawn into the story.
The economic and human effects of the Israeli / Palestine wars are clearly delineated. We see Peter’s role in the covert aspects of war. And, at the same time, what happens when Arie the businessman gets repeatedly called up to defend his country.
On the other hand, the various romances fell flat for me. Writing about young characters means relationships will happen. But Fletcher just doesn’t have the touch. His sex scenes are obviously written by a man for a male audience. So they didn’t do it for me.
Fletcher also flubbed the ending, in my view. He left several loose story ends, which was frustrating. It just felt abrupt and unsatisfying.
But, if you enjoy historical fiction from a unique time and place, give this one a try.
Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press / Thomas Dunne Books for the opportunity to read this as a digital ARC in exchange for this honest review.