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It’s April 1948 and war hangs over Jaffa. One minute seven-year-old Salim is dreaming of taking his first harvest from the family orange tree with his father; the next he is swept away by the great catastrophe” into a life of exile. Meanwhile Jude is growing up in the north of England, a girl from a Jewish family that survived the Holocaust. When their paths collide in swinging-60s London and they fall in love, they think they are aware of the many challenges ahead of them, but before long they face unexpected choices. Can they defy the lessons of their childhoods, or will old seeds ripen to bitter fruits? Ishmael’s Oranges tells the story of two cultures clashing as the relentless tides of history wash over the many crossroads of the Middle East. Spanning three generations, it follows the journeys of those cast adrift by war as well as by their own impulses until at last they find themselves thrown headlong into it. Through Salim, Jude, and their twins, we explore the longest conflict of our era in universally human terms: the families we build, the loyalties we owe, and the stories we pass on to our children.
Claire Hajaj shares both Palestinian and Jewish heritage. Her childhood was split between the the Middle East and rural England. She has lived on four continents and worked for the United Nations in war zones from Burma to Beirut. She is a former journalist.