Judith: A Novel

Open Road Integrated Media  2012


Novels can be breathtaking and passionate or cool and controlled, but readers will be surprised that Judith manages to encompass all of the above. Set in Palestine in the 1940s, on the eve of Britain’s withdrawal, the book sets us right in the middle of the birth of the new Israel. But as with many births, this one is fraught with turmoil, and its success is uncertain. Enemies of Israel are massing at its borders, marking their territory and planning to attack.

The heroine and namesake of the novel, a concentration camp escapee, is fully aware of the irony of having survived one hell only to find herself in another. And once again, the stakes for her people are as high as they can be.

Best known for his “Alexandria Quartet” novels, Lawrence Durrell is widely regarded as one of the masters of twentieth century fiction, and this previously unpublished book only adds to his reputation. Originally conceived in the ‘60s as a screenplay, it portrays in deeply human Durrell-style the forces fighting each other as Palestine became the State of Israel and ancient history collided with the modernizing world.

The story of Judith is both romantic and tragic, colored by a touching portrayal of love while embracing the sharp edges of political drama. The pending invasion by Israel’s Arab neighbors creates an almost unbearable tension in which Judith’s relationships reveal her essential nature and the color and texture of the world around her, a world that reverberates with geopolitical significance and presages the Middle East of today.

Discussion Questions

Courtesy of Open Road Media (adapted from the American Library Association)

  1. How did you experience the book? Were you immediately drawn into the story—or did it take you a while? Did the book intrigue, amuse, disturb, alienate, irritate, or frighten you?

  2. Judith offers a cultural portrait of life in other countries and circumstances.

    a. What does Durrell celebrate or criticize in these cultures? Consider family traditions, economic and political structures, the arts, language, food, and religious beliefs.

    b. Does Durrell wish to preserve or reform the culture? If reform, what and how? Either way—by instigating change or by maintaining the status quo—what would be gained or what would be at risk?

    c. How does the culture differ from yours? What was most surprising, intriguing, difficult to understand? After reading Judith, have you gained a new perspective—or did Judith affirm your prior views?

    d. Are Judith's issues controversial? How so? And who is aligned on which sides of the issues? Where do you fall in that line-up?

  3. Do you find the characters convincing? Are they believable? Compelling? Are they fully developed as complex, emotional human beings—or are they one-dimensional?

  4. Which characters do you particularly admire or dislike? What are their primary characteristics?

  5. What motivates a given character’s actions? Do you think those actions are justified or ethical?

  6. Do any characters grow or change during the course of the novel? If so, in what way?

  7. Who in this book would you most like to meet? What would you ask—or say?

  8. Is the plot well-developed? Is it believable? Do you feel manipulated along the way, or do plot events unfold naturally, organically?

  9. Is the story plot or character driven? In other words, do events unfold quickly? Or is more time spent developing characters' inner lives? Does it make a difference to your enjoyment?

  10. Consider the ending. Did you expect it or were you surprised? Was it manipulative? Was it forced? Was it neatly wrapped up—too neatly? Or was the story unresolved, ending on an ambiguous note?

  11. If you could rewrite the ending, would you? In other words, did you find the ending satisfying? Why or why not.

  12. Can you pick out a passage that strikes you as particularly profound or interesting—or perhaps something that sums up the central dilemma of the book? 

  13. Does the book remind you of your own life? An event or situation? A person—a friend, family member, boss, co-worker? 

    a. Follow-up: Do the issues raised in Judith affect your life? How so—directly, on a daily basis, or more generally? Now or sometime in the future?

  14. Does Durrell—or can you—draw implications for the future? Are there long- or short-term consequences to the problems or issues raised in Judith? If so, are they positive or negative? Affirming or frightening?

  15. If you were to talk with Durrell, what would you want to know? 

  16. Did you learn something new reading this book? Did it broaden your perspective about a difficult personal issue? Or a societal issue? About another culture in another country?

  17. Have you read any of Durrell's other books? Can you discern a similarity—in theme, writing style, structure—between them? Or are they completely different?



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