Croc-Attack by Assaf Gavron

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Croc-Attack by Assaf Gavron

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An empathetic look at both sides of the Israel/Palestinian conflict with characters you can really relate to. There's some dark humour and a lot of acute observation. Highly recommended
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: March 2010
Publisher: Fourth Estate
ISBN: 978-0007327461

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Eitan Enoch is known as Croc to his friends. There's a good reason but it's about to become rather more famous than Croc would like. It's begins on the morning that he takes his regular bus to work – the Little Number 5 – and a fellow passenger worries about the dark-skinned man with a suit bag who's sitting at the front. Just before Croc gets off at his stop he asks why people are so paranoid and wonders whether it's impossible for dark-skinned guys with suit bags to get on buses any more.

Within a few minutes a bomb explodes and everyone of the Little Number 5 is killed. People had liked the Little Number 5 because they thought that it wouldn't be worth a suicide bomber's life to kill so few passengers. And so began a week of bombings and reprisals, with Croc escaping death on three occasions. A soldier standing next to him is killed in an ambush. He changes seats with a girl in the Europa Café and when the bomb explodes he escapes with scratches whilst the girl ends up in a coma.

Croc became the man the terrorists couldn't kill, invited to appear on this, endorse that and sell himself to the highest bidder. But the terrorists couldn't have someone held up as the man they couldn't kill, could they?

As we hear Croc's story we also learn the story of Fahmi, a young Palestinian suicide bomber who lies in a coma in hospital piecing together the story of how he got there and what happened when he finally met Croc. Turn and turn about we hear Croc's story and Fahmi's and wonder why peace is impossible and how it ever could be brought about.

I was reluctant to start this book. It sat by the side of the bed for quite a while as I dreaded the thought that this would be written purely from the Israeli point of view – where Palestinians commit atrocities and Israelis conduct operations – but Gavron has achieved what I would have thought to be impossible – there's an obvious empathy with the Palestinians which never undermines what he feels for the Israelis. At one point I found myself sympathising equally with both sides of the conflict and hoping for the best for both Croc and Fahmi. They are both splendid creations.

It took a little while to get used to the alternating stories, particularly as we hear Fahmi's story out of sync with Croc's, but once I got into the swing of it I enjoyed it. The story is good even though it does rely a little heavily on coincidence in places (a Palm Pilot found in a tree for instance) but I'm being picky there. It's a splendid picture of Israeli life which had me crying at the futility of it all on several occasions and then laughing at the absurdities. Forget that it's about suicide bombers and think that it's about people caught up in a situation that's not really of their making. Highly recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For more on the situation in the Middle East we can recommend War Stories by Jeremy Bowen and Palestinian Walks: Notes from a Vanishing Landscape by Raja Shehadeh.

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