Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Confessions of Noa Weber

Gail Hareven

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Confessions of Noa Weber

Title: The Confessions of Noa Weber
Author: Gail Hareven
Genre: Novel
Written: 2000 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 331 pages
Original in: Hebrew
Availability: The Confessions of Noa Weber - US
The Confessions of Noa Weber - UK
The Confessions of Noa Weber - Canada
Le confessioni di Noa Weber - Italia
  • Hebrew title: שאהבה נפשי
  • Translated by Dalya Bilu

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

A- : compelling account of obsessive love

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Haaretz . 18/6/2009 Michal Lando
TLS . 9/10/2009 Akin Ajayi

  From the Reviews:
  • "Hareven's characters are multi-dimensional, and that's what makes this bizarre love story at least somewhat believable. And yet, at times I still found myself searching for a more rounded explanation of Noa's love. But she isn't interested in understanding her feelings so much as in expressing them -- she chooses confession over therapy, dismisses psychology, and wants to situate her love outside time and space. It may be that Noa simply isn't capable of understanding herself, or that Hareven is trying to suggest that love, no matter how normal it seems, is ultimately inexplicable" - Michal Lando, Haaretz

  • "Hareven creates a subtle, engaging narrative from Noa's lengthy self-flagellation. She is at times brutally frank, but her candour is always tempered by humour." - Akin Ajayi, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       In The Confessions of Noa Weber the eponymous narrator, now in her late forties, tells the story of her obsession with the man in her life and the father of her child, Alek. Alek is only peripherally in her life; though they (nominally) were married, he has always treated and regarded her more as a mistress, always making clear that he would not settle down with her.
       Noa's tone is slightly rueful, but she also seems to have come to terms with her situation, even as she recognizes its absurdity. But what can she do ? she loves the guy -- and:

The problem isn't that he's unworthy, but that perhaps it isn't worthy to love anyone the way I love him.
       She knows that she should come to her senses, as it were:
The trouble is that what I need is contempt, not empathy, and certainly not the empathy of blockhead.
       A parody of self-interpretation will not bring me the self-disgust I'm looking for.
       But even as she recognizes all that "romantic bullshit" that people swoon over, she can't escape her own feelings. She's torn by the fact that:
     I say: it's sentimental crap, I think it's crap, it's clear to me that it's crap, and nevertheless, against my better judgement, I still feel it as a miracle, and am still full of the grace of that knowledge.
       Her account tries for a relatively neutral distance, but love defies that. Trained as a lawyer, and now a successful writer of mysteries (with a heroine considered a strong feminist), she can step back and give account of herself. But Alek brings her to her knees.
       Noa's confessions describe her lifelong obsession, from when she was still in her teens and fell for the older man. He is always kind and supportive, but also makes clear that he will always go his own way -- literally, too, at first, as he has a scholarship to head to Heidelberg, placing a limit on the time they might be together when they first hook up. (Typically, however, while he does move on it turns out he never gets to Heidelberg -- which Noa only learns after the fact.)
       They marry so that she can avoid military service; they even move in together. But Alek always keeps a certain distance. She has their child, a daughter she names Hagar, but while he is again supportive the child is entirely hers. A bond is maintained over the decades, and even as there are other women in Alek's life Noa and he remain lovers. He is happy enough with the arrangement; she can't do otherwise. (She does occasionally sleep with other men, but there's little more to it than that.)
       The now adult Hagar is an interesting and, even to Noa, bemusing contrast. Noa says the girl was: "born with an innate immunity to the germ of romanticism" yet ironically Hagar is the one that always bandies the word 'love' around:
     My Hagar, for example, tends to chew on the word "love" interminably, and in recent years she has also developed the irritating habit of remarking "I love you" at the end of every conversation with me, casting the two of us in some American television drama.
     This is the recurrent pattern: first she provokes some argument with me on e-mail, and then she calls to say, "Mommy, I just want you to know that I love you."
     "Yes .... Same here," I echo in embarrassment. And only once I said: "Look, surely we can have an argument without pinning this tail to it. It wouldn't kill us."
       Noa loves her daughter deeply, of course, but is far more circumspect with the use of such words, their import far too significant for her to fling them about so casually. Love, for her, -- whether the parental devotion to the child, or the passion for the one man in her life -- is so deep-felt that she is very careful in expressing it.
       Interestingly, she observes and wonders:
     If today my daughter sometimes looks to me as if she is made entirely out of ideas and principles, I have only myself to blame.
     If I hadn't met my soul, if not for Alek, perhaps I would have been just like her.
       The Confessions of Noa Weber isn't quite a novel of a mid-life crisis, yet dredging up her entire history with Alek also means reassessing her life. There's been an almost lazy ease with which she has allowed her passionate obsession to determine her life. Even though ostensibly a very successful single mother -- a bestselling author, after a successful career as a human rights activist -- Alek has remained the larger-than-life figure overshadowing all. Noa's literary creation, the feisty Nira Woolf, allowed for some escape (for both Noa and her readers: "why shouldn't women have fairy tales of their own ?" she notes when someone criticizes the character) -- but only some. Confession, perhaps, allows for more.
       Hareven gets the tone down just right here, Noa's matter-of-fact approach the only way to make what is otherwise such an emotion-laden story bearable. These are convincing portraits -- with the Israeli backdrop over the decades used effectively but not too obtrusively -- and Noa's is a compelling voice.
       A different kind of love story, but well worthwhile.

- M.A.Orthofer, 12 April 2009

- Return to top of the page -


The Confessions of Noa Weber: Reviews: Gail Hareven:
  • Gail Hareven at Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature
Other books by Gail Hareven under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Israeli author Gail Hareven (גיל הראבן) was born in 1959.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2009-2021 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links