Davita's Harp | Critical Review by Time

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of Davita's Harp.
This section contains 314 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by Time

SOURCE: A review of Davita's Harp, in Time, March 25, 1985, pp. 80-1.

In the following review, the critic gives a mixed evaluation of Davita's Harp.

The earnest radicalism of the 1930s has become familiar terrain for fiction. Chaim Potok, a chronicler of the factions within American Jewish culture (The Chosen, My Name Is Asher Lev), assiduously attempts to freshen the milieu: his title character and narrator is a thoughtful, believable preadolescent girl; her father is a celebrated radical journalist from an old-line, plutocratic Wasp family, her mother a Jewish émigré.

The narrative deftly captures Davita's particular sense of placelessness and evokes a child's view of events. But in explaining the parents' political fervor and in analyzing their times, Davita's Harp too often limits itself to predictable externalities. Potok relies heavily on the imagination of other artists: the explanation for Davita's father's alienation from his timber-tycoon forebears, for example, is that he witnessed a real-life scene of antiunion violence that is vividly evoked in John Dos Passos' 1919, and Davita comes to understand him by reading the book. He also introduces a surrogate uncle to Davita, a refugee writer whose fables are full of images that heavy-handedly foreshadow Picasso's Guernica. Then Davita's father dies as a hero during the bombing at Guernica. Soon after, the child intuitively envisions the battle in Picasso-like terms. Later she sees the work of art and recoils in recognition and insight beyond her years. As the story evolves, the focus shifts from Davita's dogmatic, unhappy parents to her own quiet revolution: yearning for a sense of identity and excluded from the adult world of politics, she becomes a fervent Jew and eventually challenges the patriarchal presumptions of her religion. During the conflict between Davita's reverence for Hebraic tradition and her determination to make a place for herself, the narrative becomes far livelier and suggests possibilities for a worthier sequel.

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This section contains 314 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Time
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