The Marrying of Chani Kaufman

by Eve Harris

Book, 2014



Call number




Grove Press, Black Cat (2014), 384 pages


19 year-old Chani lives in the ultra-orthodox Jewish community of North West London. She is about to marry a boy she scarcely knows. The rabbi's wife has taught her what it means to be a Jewish wife, but Rivka has her own questions to answer as her own life and marriage fall apart. Buried secrets begin to surface in a story where everyone, young and not so young, has choices to make about love and desire.

User reviews

LibraryThing member alexdaw
The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris

This book has been longlisted for the Booker Prize.

I read The Marrying of Chani Kaufman on my Kobo. If I had bought the paperback it runs to 350 pages or 36 chapters. The only really frustrating thing about the Kobo version is that the Glossary is not
Show More
part of the clickable dictionary but is a separate chapter at the end of the text. This does not make checking definitions of the many Jewish words and phrases easy and they are liberally sprinkled throughout.

The book is essentially about two Ultra Orthodox Jewish families and is set in two time periods - contemporary London (or near to contemporary as in 2008) and a generation earlier, much of which is set in Jerusalem. We follow the stories of about-to-be-wed Chani and her betrothed, Baruch as well as Chani's marriage guidance counsellor (for want of a better phrase) Rivka, the wife of the Rabbi and her son Avromi.

At times I became impatient with the writing which tended to be melodramatic and some of the Neighbours or TV-soap-like scenes which stretched credulity.

But by the end I had sympathy for the characters and was genuinely interested in how things turned out.

This novel introduced me to a world of which I was deeply ignorant and so for that I am grateful. But I did keep checking my progress on the Kobo which is never a very good sign for being absorbed in the story.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Beamis12
3.5 I knew absolutely nothing about the Jewish Orthodox culture before reading this book, so I could not understand many of the terms and words used. Thankfully a glossary was included at the end of the book.

Chani is a young woman, about to be married. All marriages in this culture are arranged
Show More
through a matchmaker, and there are specific steps taken leading up to the event. The young woman are kept ignorant on exactly what is going to happen on their wedding night. Chain is a rather more spirited girl than many of her peers and she does not want to be married and to be tired out by constant pregnancies, liked that of her mother. Her mother has eight daughters and is overwhelmed, a feeling that pervades the life of the family. We are treated to Chani's thoughts and fears as well as those of her husband to be.

As much as I enjoyed the character of Chani it is Rivka's story that I liked even more. Her crisis of faith, the tragedies in her family and the heartbreak she felt all made her the fully realized character for me at least.

Very good story about the customs and faith of an unfamiliar culture.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Heduanna
An interesting, enjoyable read, and yet... Rather too much telling, not enough showing. For example, Chani becomes very attached to the Rabbi's wife: why? We barely see them together. Still, I would read more by this author.
LibraryThing member Rdra1962
I have very mixed feeling about this book. I really liked the two main story lines; that of Chani and Baurch, and the Rebbetzin and the Rabbi, as well as that of Avromi. I thought the author handled their developing relationships and their thoughts about their orthodox religion well. I found each
Show More
storyline believable and totally engaging. I read this book very quickly because I could not put it down, I needed to find out how each couple's journey progressed. I did have a few quibbles; Chani did not seem to be much of a friend to her best friend, nor a nice sister, and there was a scene on a school outing that seemed written from the author-as-a-teacher's point of view rather than Chani's.

What I did not like about this book was it's one note portrayal of the Orthodox community. As an outsider it seems to me to be a stereotypical, one sided view. Every home but one is described a dirty, worn, shabby. Every woman once married is stout, worn out, gossipy, mean spirited, exhausted etc. Now, I am not a member of this community, but have lived in proximity to them, and have friends who have joined the community, and yes, some of them fit the description, some of them, well, let's just say there are $50 wigs and there are $8,000 wigs, clothing- same. There are gyms and spas for the Orthodox women in my city, mansions and ghettos. It did not seem true to her character that Becca, the future Rebbetzin would have a dirty, shabby home. That bothered me.

The writing itself was not great. Harris can spin a tale, but she need a better editor. She repasts phrases and descriptions ad nauseum, and many characters speak with the same voice. Final thought; in her acknowledgements Harris thanks her "frum friends" - I hope she is not surprised if they are not so friendly anymore~
Show Less
LibraryThing member Bookish59
Clever and satisfying novel about those curious, bright and rational individuals living within the insular, conformist world of Orthodox Judaism. Not easy for a young man or woman faced daily with inconsistencies, untruths and insincerity of this restrictive community to ask questions, learn the
Show More
truth, let alone express their individuality, thoughts and desires. But not impossible if done covertly and with caution.

Marriage may initially seem like an escape from a too large and poor family, or from demanding, critical and domineering parents or older siblings, but with time it becomes evident that one may have jumped from the frying pan directly into the fire.

I believe Chani will soon see she may be luckier than most in her husband, and he with her.

Harris has done an amazing job of describing the individuals, the community, it’s rules, the questions from within and from outside, without being academic, boring, or disrespectful. Her writing is strong, fresh and inviting. And I love the twists and turns the novel takes.

I definitely recommend this novel to those who like to learn about different ways of life, and yet know that most people are more similar than different.
Show Less
LibraryThing member shazjhb
Nice book. Young couple funny. Marriage of older couple very interesting
LibraryThing member Belana
What a gem! Absolutely marvellous and fascinating, and full of Jewish traditions and customs.
I wasn't aware that there are still Jewish communities in our time and day, and in London even, who are still observing all the rituals. I guess they must be ultra orthodox, and somehow, this is
Show More
unbelievable, but the story rang true enough.

The narration was perfect. Toni Green either knows how to pronounce all the Yiddish words from experience, or she did an excellent job at researching them.
Either way, this audio book was quite an experience.
Show Less
LibraryThing member froxgirl
Longlisted for the Man Booker? I can't see it. Perhaps this novel of Orthodox Jews in London and Jerusalem was appealing because the milieu was foreign to the judges, but I didn't think it was any more remarkable than others in the genre. The most unique part was the saga of a couple who met in
Show More
Jerusalem as non-practicing Jews and became Rabbi and Rebbetzin. To see their evolution, or, more accurately, his, and her succumbing to the hard life out of love for him, was stirring. The second couple are 19 and 20 and decide to marry after the requisite three dates. As in any extremist religion, the women get the worst of it.
Show Less


Original language


Original publication date

2013 (Scotland)

Physical description

384 p.; 8.2 inches


0802122736 / 9780802122735
Page: 0.2064 seconds