Cover image of "City of Secrets," a novel about israeli independence

A Latvian Jew freed from imprisonment in World War II internment camps makes his way to Palestine in 1948 and joins the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization that led the fight for Israeli independence. His new name is Jossi. He operates as a courier in Jerusalem, part of a small cell that includes an older woman with whom he had fallen in love.

Terrorism and the struggle for Israeli independence

Then the Haganah merges with the far more radical Irgun, and the stakes for Jossi rise dramatically. Jossi and others in his cell are quickly drawn into terrorism designed to kill British soldiers in the occupation force. Jossi is terrified. This is the picture that emerges early in Stewart O’Nan’s new thriller, City of Secrets.

“He wasn’t weak enough to kill himself,” O’Nan writes, “but wasn’t strong enough to stop wanting to. There was always the question of what to do with his old life, memory seething inside him like a disease.” Having lost his whole family in the Holocaust, Jossi is haunted by nightmares of the experience. Even his deepening love affair causes nightmares about his dead wife.

O’Nan skillfully portrays Jossi’s evolution from a frightened refugee into a terrorist. Along the way, we learn a great deal about the tactics of the Israeli independence movement. As history has recorded, the consequences were sometimes tragic. City of Secrets deals with the country’s most notorious act of terrorism. As historical fiction, City of Secrets contributes to our understanding about the road to the State of Israel.

City of Secrets by Stewart O’Nan ★★★★☆

About the author

Stewart O’Nan is the author of seventeen novels and a half-dozen other works. He is American.

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