Nevo, Eshkol. “Three Floors Up”, (translated by Sondra Silverston), Other Press, 2017.
An Apartment Building in Tel Aviv
One of the books due out later this year is one I have been eager to read since I first heard about it. Set in an upper-middle-class Tel Aviv apartment building, this Israeli novel examines the interconnected lives of its residents and their turmoils, secrets, unreliable confessions, and problematic decisions and readers see a society in the midst of an identity crisis.
Arnon, a tormented retired officer who fought in the First Intifada lives on the first floor and he confesses to an army friend with a troubled military past how his obsession about his young daughter’s safety caused him to lose control and put his marriage in peril. Above Arnon lives Hani, “the widow,” whose husband travels the world for his lucrative job while she stays at home with their two children. Hani becomes increasingly isolated and unstable. When her brother-in-law suddenly appears at their door begging her to hide him from loan sharks and the police, she agrees to do so in spite of the risk to her family. She thinks that his being there might bring some emotional excitement into her life. On the top floor lives a former judge, Devora. Now that she has retired, she is anxious to start a new life and joins a social movement, while desperately trying to reconnect with her estranged son. She falls in love with a man who isn’t what he seems.
I have lived in an apartment house in Tel Aviv and can tell you from what I saw is that each building of this kind is almost a microcosm of the larger society of Israel. Writer Eshkol Nevo vividly “depicts how the grinding effects of social and political ills play out in the psyche of his flawed yet compelling characters, in often unexpected and explosive ways”.