Reviews for the novella “And the Bride Closed the Door” by Ronit Matalon, and the short story “Evidence of the Affair” by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Once again, I seem to be getting a little bit behind in my reviewing, so because these two works are both short fiction, I thought I’d combine the two into one post for another #ShortStorySunday post.
“And the Bride Closed the Door” by Ronit Matalon, translated by Jessica Cohen
Summary: “A young bride shuts herself up in a bedroom on her wedding day, refusing to get married. In this moving and humorous look at contemporary Israel and the chaotic ups and downs of love everywhere, her family gathers outside the locked door, not knowing what to do.”
What a shame that this was Matalon’s last work before she died at the very young age of 58. I can only imagine what other beautiful books she could have given us if she’d only lived to write more. But at least we have this, and her small back-list (which I will endeavor to read in the future). As her last work, this novella is a perfectly constructed montage of characters all thrown into a bad situation when the woman who is supposed to get married, refuses to leave the bedroom.
While the blurbs tout this as being a humorous piece of fiction, it only got a few laughs out of me, and I wonder if other readers will find humor in of some references that I giggled at, unless they know Israel and Israelis as well as I do. There is one part that was fairly comical, but overall, I don’t think that label was entirely accurate. Instead, I found it was more a bittersweet family study, or a multiple-character study, that has some unusual twists, meant to give us insight into the characters, who obviously never understand themselves. The thing is, this is one of those stories that doesn’t really have an obvious conclusion, and yet, it still feels whole. It will make you think, that’s for sure, and I’m calling that a good thing in this case. Mind you, there is a slightly disjointed feel to this novella, which can be confusing, and yet, through everything, we do see how carefully Matalon was able to draw these characters, even in being as enigmatic as they are.
As for the translation, unfortunately I don’t read books in Hebrew (due to my dyslexia), but all my years in Israel have made me pretty fluent in understanding in the language. That means that there were some places where I wondered what were the original Hebrew word/s used by Matalon, because although I totally trust Cohen in her translating skills, I just wondered if the English wasn’t as subtle as it might have been in Hebrew. Even so, the poetry of the thoughts of the different characters was just stunningly beautiful, and with this I’m glad they chose Cohen to do this translation (who did such a marvelous job on Dorit Rabinyan’s “All the Rivers”). All told, I really enjoyed this story, especially because it was interesting to discover how Matalon carefully revealed each of these people, and how they coped (or didn’t) with this unusual, and difficult situation. I also appreciated how realistically human and quirky Matalon painted them all. I think this deserves four out of five stars, and I’ll be looking up more of her work to read in the future.
“And the Bride Closed the Door” by Ronit Matalon was released on October 1, 2019, and is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Walmart (Kobo) US (eBooks and audiobooks), the website eBooks.com, iTunes (iBook or audiobook), The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org (supporting independent book stores) or an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank Edelweiss for allowing me to download this review copy of this novella.
“Evidence of the Affair” by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
Summary: “A desperate young woman in Southern California sits down to write a letter to a man she’s never met—a choice that will forever change both their lives. … Told entirely through the letters of two comforting strangers and those of two illicit lovers, [this story] explores the complex nature of the heart.”
This is actually a short story (only 86 pages) that Reid wrote and released in September 2018, as an Amazon exclusive. From what I can see, this happened between the release of Evelyn Hugo, probably to promote her then upcoming novel Daisy Jones (readers, watch out for the nod to her yet to be published novel in this story). While obviously, Reid didn’t need too much to keep her name in the public eye, this little story does seem to have been a type of precursor to Daisy Jones in that we get various different voices telling their stories. However, the biggest difference here is that these are told in letters rather than through interviews.
There is something very attractive about epistolary books for me, for two reasons. First, it shows the author’s ability to get into the heads and voices of their different characters. Second, if the author succeeds with the first, they usually reveal much more about the motivations of the protagonists, even if they sometimes are unreliable narrators – which they honestly often are, to be frank! In this way, we, as witnesses, can draw our own conclusions regarding what the characters are saying, and what they’re really all about.
In this story, Reid allows all of her characters to be more than usually forthright, since half of the letters are between two people carrying on an affair, while the other half are between those two who are being betrayed. Furthermore, throughout this story, Reid leaves little clues regarding how it will all conclude, but the ending isn’t quite as twisty as I’ve come to expect from Reid. Because of this, there wasn’t a real punch to the end of the story, but it was still very enjoyable to watch how Reid has her characters develop and even, come of age, so to speak. For this, I think I’d recommend this story with a good four and a half stars out of five, and it was well worth the small sum you’ll pay to get a copy of this!