When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant

When I Lived in Modern Times

Written by Linda Grant

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Shortlisted for the Best of the Orange Best 2010 by the Orange Prize Youth Panel.

A naïve young Jewish woman, Evelyn, moves to Israel, the Promised Land, in 1946. The country is coping with an influx of refugees and gradually Evelyn’s eyes are opened to the complexities of a country coping with the displaced. A interesting and thought provoking novel.


When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant

It is April 1946. Evelyn Sert, 20 years old, a hairdresser from Soho sails for Palestine where Jewish refugees and idealists are gathering from across Europe to start a new life in a brand new country.


As with Grant's first well-received novel, The Cast Iron Shore, this is a skilful combination of the personal and the political. In this latest we follow the fortunes of 20-year-old Evelyn Sert who leaves postwar Soho after her mother's death for a new life in Palestine. Evelyn never knew her father and grew up in what she describes as a 'shadow family', her mother the mistress of a married Jewish businessman. Arriving in British-ruled Palestine, Evelyn is like a blank canvas, in search of an identity for herself. An admirer of all things modern and with no interest in the past, it is appropriate that she should find herself in a country with its face turned firmly towards the future. Evelyn settles in the modern city of Tel Aviv and soon becomes involved with the struggle for Jewish independence. Assuming the identity of hairdresser enables her to pass information about the policemen husbands of her British clients to her lover in the Jewish underground movement. Tel Aviv is home to the damaged goods that are the Jewish refugees of the world and Evelyn soon discovers that it is one thing to survive, but another to survive intact. In the novel the city of Tel Aviv is like a metaphor for the idealistic dream of the Jewish homeland; just as the birth of the state of Israel led to decades of bitter fighting between Jews and Arabs, so with the passing of time do the sparkling white buildings of the Bauhaus city become stained brown by the sea air and cracked through poor maintenance. Grant creates strong visual images and characters with memorable voices that resonate throughout this intelligently and beautifully written novel. Winner of the 2000 Orange Prize. (Kirkus UK)

About the Author

Linda Grant is a novelist and journalist. She won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2000 and the Lettre Ulysses Prize for Literary Reportage in 2006. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Vogue.

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Linda Grant
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Granta Books

Publication date

9th October 2000




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