Cover image for When I lived in modern times
When I lived in modern times
Grant, Linda, 1951-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Dutton, [2000]

Physical Description:
260 pages ; 23 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Granta Books, 2000.
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A number-one bestseller in London and the winner of Britain's prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction, When I Lived in Modern Times is one woman's story of discovery--of herself, of her heritage, and of the nation that would one day become Israel. It is April 1946. For a weary and exhausted Europe, it's a time to begin picking up the pieces of the past, and for the armies of displaced persons on the move to slowly return home--if they still have one. But for Evelyn Sert, a twenty year-old woman from London standing on the deck of a ship bound for Palestine, it is a time of adventure and a time of change when anything seems possible.Landing on the shores of a nation fighting to be born, Evelyn is quickly caught up in the spirited, chaotic churning of her new, strange country. Unsure of herself and where she belongs in this world whose only constant is change, she will become Eve and work in the unbearable heat of a kibbutz. As Evelyn, she will find a home, and a collection of friends as eccentric and disparate as the teeming metropolis of Tel Aviv itself. And as Priscilla, she will find love with a man who is not what he seems to be, as she is swept up as an unwitting spy in an underground army that is beyond anything she's ever imagined.A coming-of-age story unlike any other, When I Lived in Modern Times illuminates a page of Twentieth century history that is at once exotic and familiar through the eyes of one of the most unforgettable heroines in contemporary fiction.

Author Notes

Linda Grant is one of England's leading journalists and writers. The author of three previous books, including The Cast Iron Shore (winner of the David Higham Prize for best first novel of 1995) and Remind Me Who I Am, Again , her acclaimed account of her mother's dementia. When I Lived in Modern Times won the Orange Prize - established in 1996 to honor novels of excellence, originality and accessibility by women writers - in June 2000, and will be her first work of fiction published in the United States.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Evelyn Sert, 20 and Jewish, arrives in Palestine looking for the home she's never had. The granddaughter of Latvian immigrants, she always felt like an outsider in London. When her mother dies, there is nothing to keep her in England, so, at the urging of her "uncle" (her late mother's married lover), she changes her name to Eve and travels to Palestine, tricking British officials to gain entry, then joining a kibbutz because she has nowhere else to stay. Passionate and longing for something she can't name, Eve eventually leaves the kibbutz, accepts a ride from a stranger named Johnny, and finds an apartment in Tel Aviv. Grant's prose is simple and moving, clearly expressing the intensity of a young girl's quest for herself, and of a young nation seeking to establish its boundaries. Eve's travels parallel her spiritual journey, and nearly everyone she meets is also searching, including concentration camp survivors, Russian Jews trying to build their own utopia, European Jews in exile, and those who've come to Palestine simply because they never felt comfortable anywhere else. --Bonnie Johnston

Publisher's Weekly Review

An unsentimental, iconoclastic coming-of-age story of both a countryDIsraelDand a young immigrant, Grant's first novel introduces an unusually appealing heroine, narrator Evelyn Sert, and provides an unforgettable glimpse of a time and place rarely observed from an unsparing point of view. Nave and idealistic, 20-year-old Evelyn, an incipient Zionist, leaves London for Palestine in April 1946 under false pretenses. Devoid of useful skills, she barely survives a stint on a kibbutz. Later, in Tel Aviv, she gets a job in a hairdressing salon, passing herself off as Priscilla Jones, the wife of a British soldier. To her neighbors she acknowledges that she's a Jew, but she's puzzled that she has more in common with the British colonials than with the motley collection of Jews from many lands and widely disparate religious, social and economic backgrounds, all of them busy reinventing themselves. After falling in love with a chameleon-like man she knows as Johnny, who impersonates a British army officer, she's not really surprised to find that he's a terrorist with the Irgun underground, working cold-bloodedly to end the British Mandate. Unwittingly, Evelyn gives Johnny information that results in violence. The quiet force of this astonishingly mature novel comes in watching Evelyn's simplistic worldview gradually give way to disillusionment as she becomes aware of the moral ambiguities and paradoxes on all sides. Readers will be struck by the timeliness of Grant's narrative, for she captures the excitement and danger of a volatile society and the desperate measures of a homeless people convinced that they must create a state. The implications of this cautionary tale keep unfolding even after the bittersweet denouement. It's no wonder that this novel won the 2000 Orange Prize, beating out Zadie Smith's White Teeth. (Feb.) Forecast: The stark facts revealed in Tom Segev's One Palestine, Complete (Nonfiction Forecasts, Oct. 23) acquire a human face and a compelling voice in this fictional evocation of the period. The novel's relevance to current events provides a natural handle for booksellers, and Hollywood may see the potential in a story whose ramifications are reflected in today's headlines. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Winner of Britain's Orange Prize, which honors exceptional works by women, this novel follows 20-year-old Eve to Palestine after World War II. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.