Shortlisted for the Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize 2016
A finalist for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award 2015
It’s April 1948, and war hangs over Jaffa.
One minute seven-year-old Salim is dreaming of taking his first harvest from the family’s orange tree; the next he is swept away into a life of exile and rage. Seeking a new beginning in swinging-’60s London, Salim falls in love with Jude. The only problem? Jude is Jewish.
A captivating story about love and loss, Ishmael’s Oranges follows the story of two families spanning the crossroad events of modern times, and of the legacy of hatred their children inherit.
Claire Hajaj has spent her life building bridges between two worlds, sharing both Palestinian and Jewish heritage. Her childhood was split between the deserts of the Middle East and the gardens of rural England. She has lived on four continents and worked for the United Nations in war zones from Burma to Baghdad. A former journalist for the BBC World Service, Claire’s writing has also appeared in Time Out London and the London Literary Review, as well as political institutions dedicated to peace. She has an M.A. in Classical and English Literature from Oxford University.
‘In her first novel, Hajaj, who herself shares both Palestinian and Jewish heritage, shines a revealing spotlight on the consequences of deeply embedded prejudices.’
‘If anyone can make a compelling, thought-provoking and honest story out of these disparate viewpoints, it’s Hajaj.’
– The National
‘Ishmael’s Oranges is, one that conjures up the sights, smells and sounds of the Middle East as you turn the pages… much more than a standard retelling of the difficulties that beset two communities… an accomplished piece of storytelling… movingly told… If you are looking for a gripping, challenging summer read, then Ishmael’s Oranges should be on your list.’
– Jewish Chronicle
‘Claire Hajaj isn’t afraid to ask difficult questions about how far people will go for love, for family, for faith or for country… At its heart, Ishmael’s Oranges tells the everyday story of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It’s not concerned with wider global implications or peace negotiations, but with presenting a new take on a familiar story: the way division affects real people and real families.’
– Curious Animal
‘A beautifully rendered work that makes the tragedy of the Middle East real; highly recommended.’
– Library Journal
‘[Hajaj] makes great efforts to be fair to the two sides of an apparently insoluble conflict, acknowledging the faults and anguish of each.’
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