Having historical background info would have helped

City of Secrets - Stewart O'Nan

I’ve long wanted to try a Stewart O’Nan book so when I saw this book, I decided to request it. This may not have been the best of O’Nan’s books to start off with, though I can certainly see that he has an excellent way with words.  I think having a bit of background in the Irgun and the history surrounding this novel would have been very helpful in allowing me to appreciate the story better.  I did get lost a few times as to just what was happening.  But then again Brand, the main protagonist in this book, was also often times lost as he wasn’t given enough background information and was kept in the dark as to the Irgun’s plans.


Brand, a/k/a Jossi Jorgensen, is a taxi driver in Jerusalem in 1946. He’s a Latvian Holocaust survivor who is given false papers by the Haganah, which is from what I understand (and I may be incorrect) a group set up to protect Jewish immigrants from the British mandate and the local Arabs.  The Haganah was not a violent group; however, Brand becomes involved with the Irgun, an underground resistance movement.  He is first used as a taxi driver for the Irgun but then is tested in more dangerous endeavors. 


I think the main problem I had with this book is that the author assumes his readers are familiar with this period of time and place. Not being familiar with the history referred to, I still did have a vague understanding of what was happening and understood the dangers that Brand found himself in.  There is still a story in here that can be enjoyed.  Brand’s back story is an emotional one and his present state of affairs had me longing for a good outcome for him, as well as for his prostitute girlfriend Eva.  The story kept me turning the pages and I had to see it through to the end.  I most definitely will go on to read other Stewart O’Nan books.


This book was given to me by the publisher through First to Read in return for an honest review.