EXILE - Richard North Patterson ****

David Wolfe's life is approaching an exhilarating peak: he is a successful San Francisco lawyer, he is soon to be married and he is being groomed as a future Congressman. But when the phone rings and he hears the voice of Hana Arif - a Palestinian woman whom he had a secret affair at law school - he behins a completely unexpected journey. The next day, while visiting San Francisco, the Prime Minister of Israel is assassinated by a suicide bomber; soon Hana herself is accused of being the mastermind behind the murder. Now David faces an agonising choice: will he, a Jew, represent Hana - who may well be guilty - or will he turn away from the one woman he can never forget?
David's quest takes him to Israel and the West Bank, where, in a series of harrowing encounters, he learns that appearances are not at all what they seem...
*I have edited this blurb by removing the first paragraph. I did so because in a sentence, it just about gives away the entire plot of the novel which is otherwise so carefully built.
There are two quotes on the cover of this book. Normally I don't detail the "quotes" as they're usually tripe taken out of context such as "amazing" - BLAHBLAH. Such a word could actually originally be "I have never read such amazing garbage". One of the quotes is on the front cover, and as such you see it quite often. And on the rear -
"An astonishing book, a hugely entertaining human drama" BILL CLINTON.
"A thriller so important it absolutely demands to be read" THE TIMES
I wanted to mention them because I found them to both be relevant to the book. The Times quote is much more accurate, it was a compelling book, and Clinton is right in saying it is astonishing. What I am annoyed about with Clinton's quote is that its so at odds with...itself. Astonishing is to imply that it keeps blowing you away, page after page. Entertaining while the book is, I feel that with this one quote, Clinton trivialises the whole story. Although to be fair to Clinton, the only reason he is quoted at all is to lend credence to the political bent of the book, of which Clinton was a contemporary for some of the historical politicos that feature. How exactly does one comment on fiction that implies criticism of the part the US played in geopolitics?
But I digress. As with many books I enjoy, while there is a serious history lesson going on for people like me who know little about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, its wrapped up in a fiction with some love story gluing it all together.
This is perhaps my favourite kind of book. I enjoy fiction immensely, but often feel I am keeping myself ignorant of world events. By taking my history in a medium I already enjoy, I enjoy it all the more having learnt something at the end.
I found it difficult to get into initially, which is unusual for North Patterson, but once it picked up it moved at a cracking pace. It did have to compete with Wii for a few days, but I focused on how much I wanted to finish it and it was all ok. Its a fair tome, weighing it at 700+ pages (with tiny writing M exclaimed!), but well worth it.
Half a star off for the slow start.
4 / 5

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