The Hilltop: A Novel, by Assaf Gavron, has been called the “Great Israeli Novel” which I suppose means, that in a serious sense, it captures the various currents of the current Israeli experience in novel form, in one stream. Yes, I can see that label, and in many ways it fits. The problem is the novel is very programmatic in its attempts to show all the sides of the Israeli experience. The obviousness of this reach mars the book. It is not an organic display of people living their lives, but more a showcase. So in some ways the presentation of the characters and their situations is a bit stilted and obvious.
That said, Gavron has written a novel with many redeeming qualities. There are at least a dozen major characters. He brings them in and out of the narrative with ease and agility. Gabi, who really functions as the hero of this novel, is complex, strange, very distasteful at certain times, but ultimately is a man how is learning from his mistakes and getting on with the business of life. Gavron also has an excellent handle of the baroque bureaucracies of the Israel government, and a very comic sense of things. All this gives the novel no little credit.