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Disobedience

by Naomi Alderman

Ronit believes she has escaped the stifling restrictions of her upbringing in the Orthodox Jewish community in North London. A successful financial analyst in New York, she glories in the trappings – apartment, freedom, unsuitable boyfriend – of the independent young woman unburdened of family expectations. Then her estranged father, a well-respected Rabbi, dies and she returns to Hendon out of a grudging sense of duty.
She tells herself it will be easy – she’ll just go back to London for a while, sort out her father’s affairs, see her cousin and his wife and come back. But she doesn’t count on the loose ends, quietly fraying for the past seven years, which she left in Hendon or the powerful feelings that her ex-lover, Esti, still has for her.
The novel provides a fascinating insight into an extraordinarily traditional and closed society where women know their place and stick to it and a religion which allows women no voice in the worship, where they are hidden behind a curtain in the synagogue and men thank God in the morning prayer for not making them a woman. Yet despite Ronit’s rebellion, she feels a deep attraction for the conventions and certainties of this way of life. This tension underlies the narrative and, together with the subtle allegories of the Torah that precede each chapter, provides depth to a well-written but otherwise fairly slight story.

Guardian interviewwith Naomi Alderman

Naomi Alderman is appearing in Jewish Book Week.

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