Top Ten Tuesdays | Top Ten Best Books of 2016

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Book Review | The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levi

Sarit Yishai-Levi
Publication date:
April 5th 2016
St. Martin’s Press
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

As it’s been five years since my time in Israel, I thought it would be enjoyable to read several books from writers who are from Israel. A couple of the books are review books, thus you will definitely be able to read my thoughts on them.

The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem by Sarit Yishai-Levi is the first of these books, and was in fact the first book I finished in 2016. The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem follows three generations of Sephardic Jewish women and is told from the perspective of Gabriela the daughter of Luna, the titular “Beauty Queen of Jerusalem”. It’s a fascinating, albeit somewhat tragic family saga concerning the Ermosa women who are unfortunate enough to marry men who are hopelessly in love with other women. I loved that the novel was mostly set in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as these were the cities (outside of the city I resided in) that I spent the majority of my time in. And although much has changed since the times of Gabriela’s mother and grandmother, I could still picture the cities, the food, and the environment all of which made me nostalgic.

Of the three leading women, I found Luna to be an exceptionally unsympathetic character. Even as a child, she was incredibly bratty and to be honest though it may sound cruel, I felt that she got what she deserved in the finale. Another issue I had with this novel, was how abrupt the conclusion felt, as it left a few major loose ends hanging. Most notably, I was sad that we were not able to witness a formal reconciliation between Gabriela and her father, although I did appreciate that the novel concluded on an uplifting and hopeful manner.

All in all, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem remains one of my favourite reads in 2016. It’s a simple, captivating family saga that focuses on women who, while they may not be always likeable are no doubt strong. And even though I’m not a fan of sad stories The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem has a decent balance of tragedy and hope, happiness and humour that made me fall in love with it.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.