The People of Forever are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu tells the story of three Israeli women as they finish high school, complete their compulsory enlistment in the Israeli Defence Force, and their life afterwards. The chapters alternate in their point of view of the different girl, sometimes not revealing just which narrator until several pages into the chapter. Some parts of their story are similar to other young women; stories of boys and romantic relationships, making new friends while maintaining old friendships, and starting new jobs. However this is against a back drop of military service; learning and training others who to shoot, managing checkpoints, guarding borders. Sometimes it feels so mundane, but then it’s not. The book is marked with glimpses of tragedy and its everlasting impact.
When I started my Around the World Challenge, this is exactly the sort of book I wanted to read. Something that reveals something new to me. I was aware of the mandatory conscription in Israel but beyond that, hadn’t thought much about it. This book gives some perspective as to what that is like. Each character shares a small part of their own story, piecing together to create a bigger picture, highlighting that each role, no matter how small it may be perceived, has its importance in large military operations.
This book also shows the lives of these young women after they leave the military and start new chapters of their lives. They carry their scars into their new lives which impacts on the new relationships they form. It makes me wonder how this impacts on the country, with whole generations of their people having these intense experiences. Does it make it better to have everyone have to experience this, or is it just leaving everyone that little bit traumatised?
Shani Boianjiu has been well recognised for this novel. She was the first Israeli to be longlisted for UK’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. The book was selected as one of the ten best fiction titles of 2012 by the Wall Street Journal. The book has been released and critically acclaimed in many countries. Shani is reportedly working on her next novel now, so I look forward to seeing what she releases next.