Review of the Hilltop in the New York Times Book Review

“Structurally brilliant….Violence haunts the narrative, providing its emotional core.”

Review of The Hilltop by Pauls Tautonghi in the New York Times Book Review. To be published 21 December 2014.

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Review of The Hilltop in the Guardian, UK

“The Hilltop undoubtedly provides an extraordinary view of contemporary Israeli society… it is something entirely new – a comic settlement-saga that attempts to understand the terrible saga of the settlements.”

Reaview of The hilltop by Iam Sansom  in the Guardian.

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Review of The Hilltop in the Financial Times, UK

“… Lends vital volume and humanity to a story that shows how fiction can fully access the areas diplomacy and journalism do not quite reach… infused with gentle, everyday humour and flickers of kindness… could be taken as an allegory of Israel’s journey from leftwing secularism to the religious right…”

Review if The Hilltop by Julius Purcell in the Financial Times, UK

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The Hilltop recommended on JTA

“Equal parts comedy and tragedy, Assaf Gavron’s sprawling seventh novel takes us to a fictional West Bank settlement deemed illegal by the Israeli government.”

The Hilltop recommended as a Hanukkah gift by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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The Hilltop briefly noted in the New Yorker

“Expansive, humorous novel… Gavron’s satiric touches can be coruscating…”

The Hilltop in the New Yorker’s “briefly noted” reviews.

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The Hilltop in NPR’s best of 2014 list

The Hilltop was selected in NPR’s “best of 2014″ book list:

“Americans may not recognize the portrait of Israel in Assaf Gavron’s most recent novel, but Israelis sure will. It’s set in an illegal Jewish settlement on the West Bank. The residents are a cross section of Israeli society who joined the settlement for any number of reasons: religious, ideological or simply in search of anonymity. The book deals with Israel’s overarching conflicts — Jew versus Jew, Jew versus Palestinian — and presents them with a nuanced complexity that feels very real. It’s a funny and ultimately melancholy read.”

Review by Mark Katkov

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Listen >>>

 

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Review of The Hilltop in Forward

“Compelling….touchingly human….gripping….Gavron’s achievement is to strip Ma’aleh Hermesh C of all the expectations, projections and stereotypes that Western readers usually have of ‘settlers.’ And instead he makes it about the real, fascinating people who live there.”

Review of The Hilltop by Dan Friedman in Forward.

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PBS interview about Tel Aviv Noir

Interview broadcast on PBS about Tel Aviv Noir, along with Teheran Noir editor Salar Abdoh and Singapore Noir editor Cheryl Lu Lien Tan, in the Miami Book Fair.

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Review of The Hilltop in a Belgian blog

Review of The Hilltop in Belgian blog lees|me|nu

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Miami Book Fair Noir panel

Panel on Tel Aviv Noir, Teheran Noir and Singapore Noir with fellow editors Salar Abdoh and Cheryl Tan.

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Review of The Hilltop in Curious Animal

“For giving depth to a group so often demonised or heroised, The Hilltop is an important work and an invaluable insight into modern Israel… 8/10″

Review of The Hilltop in British online magazine for travel and culture, Curious Animal.

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Review of Croc Attack in Greece

Another review which i can’t read but I’m told is very good.

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Interview in Tin House magazine blog

“The Hilltop, Assaf Gavron’s fifth novel, opens with the language of Genesis: “In the beginning were the fields.” We soon meet Othniel Assis, who, “so it came to pass,” hiked until his beard grew long and he found the land that would become the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Hermesh C. As the novel unfolds, Gavron’s confident, often playful narrator portrays interpersonal drama with humor and heartbreak as we follow the wide cast of characters who call the settlement home.”

Interview by Rebekah Bergman, Tin House magazine blog (The Open Bar)

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Interview in BBC Radio 4′s Front Row, UK

Radio interview on BBC 4′s Front Row.

Program page >>>

Download podcast here (November 14th) >>>

Listen to the interview (starts 18:38) >>>
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Video of The Hilltop event in The Strand Book Store, New York

Here is a video of my conversation with author John Wray about The Hilltop in The Strand Book Store.

 

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Interview in the Harold Examiner, CT

“It is not a class in history or politics, but a book. Still, I do hope it opens minds to the complexity of situations and individuals, and that people learn something from it.”

Interview about The Hilltop in the Harold Examiner, Connecticut.

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Audio recording of the Tel Aviv / Teheran Noir NYPL event

Here’s an audio recording of the Tel Aviv Noir and Teheran Noir launch event in the New York Public Library, with Salar Abdoh, Gina Nahai, Etgar Keret and Assaf Gavron.

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Interview in the Jewish Book Council website

“… a tremendous ability to portray different types of people in the book. The char­acters change throughout the book and the book chronicles their changes. There are two different baalei teshuvah, returnees to religious Judaism, Josh and Gabi. They are not stereotypes, but individuals. Even the Shin Bet informer is seen as sympathetic…”

Interview about the Hilltop, by Beth Kissileff, Jewish Book Council website.

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Radio Interview – Jeff Schechtman’s “Specific Gravity”

Interview about The Hilltop on Jeff Schechtman’s radio show, Specific Gravity.

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Interview about The Hilltop on TLV1 Radio

Interview with Ishai Golan on the Tel Aviv State of Mind show, Radio TLV1.

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The Hilltop in PlacingLiterature.com

Cool website that places scenes from books on the map. There are several from The Hilltop.

PlacingLiteraure.com >>>

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Haaretz English-edition review of The Hilltop

“Sardonic and engaging, an ambitious undertaking… Gavron is at his best injecting a dose of the absurd into the mundane, all the while hanging back with judgment, content with letting the reader draw her own conclusions… [He] excels at unmasking the contradictions that characterize Israeli society…

I was struck by the timeliness, even prescience, of “The Hilltop.”… Gavron is clearly a born storyteller, intelligent and imaginative… His hilltop may be fictionalized, but it embodies, perhaps more than any journalistic or documentary attempt in recent years, the mechanisms by which extremism crosses over and adopts the bureaucratic language and signifiers of the officially sanctioned.”—Ruth Margalit, Haaretz

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Introduction to a reading of The Hilltop in University of Denver

His work is poignant, and I mean this in the original sense of the term; that is, piercing and cutting. Gavron’s novels are books that teach, but escape didacticism because they do not have an agenda. They are poignant because he is interested in using fiction to pose questions that have not difficult answers but no answers at all.

Introduction to a reading from The Hilltop, written by Creative Writing graduate Lindsey Drager.

Click “Read More” for the full text:

Assaf Gavron is the author of five novels (Ice, Moving, Almost Dead, Hydromania, and, released this month from HarperPerrenial The Hilltop), a volume of short stories (Sex in the Cemetery), and a collection of Jerusalem falafel-joint reviews titled Eating Standing Up. His awards, honors, and recognition include the Israeli Prime Minister’s Creative Award for Authors, the Buch fur die Stadt award in Germany, and the Israeli Bernstein Prize, to name just a few, and his fiction has been performed on the stage and optioned for movies by international filmmakers.Currently, he is the American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise Scholar at the University of Nebraska–Omaha, but he has also been the chief writer of the computer game Peacemaker; the captain of Israel’s national writers’ and poets’ soccer team; and the lead songwriter of the cult pop group The Foot and Mouth. His work has been translated into ten languages and he himself has translated into Hebrew books by Franz Kafka, J.D. Salinger, Philip Roth, Jonathan Safron Foer, Audrey Niffeneger, and co-translated work by Nathan Englander and David Foster Wallace, among others. It is perhaps his work with translation paired with his investment in pop culture storytelling—through video games and song lyrics—that install in his novels a sense of bridging—of cultural narrative and human desire; of comedy and earnestness; of realism and satire. In short, his work is poignant, and I mean this in the original sense of the term; that is, piercing and cutting. Gavron’s novels are books that teach, but escape didacticism because they do not have an agenda. They are poignant because he is interested in using fiction to pose questions that have not difficult answers but no answers at all. In Hydromania, readers investigate a not-unfamiliar future world that has run out of water. In Almost Dead, readers toggle between the narratives of two men who in practice could not be more different, revealing how, in theory, they are very much alike. Gavron’s latest novel, The Hilltop is described as “Catch 22 meets 21st century Israel.” Seamlessly vacillating between comic absurdity and tragic realism to tell a story overtly political and deeply moving, The Hilltop offers a portrait of life in a West Bank settlement, exploring territory as intimate as sibling relations and as global as the dysfunction at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, to craft what is being heralded as the Great Israeli Novel. As Colum McCann puts it: “Assaf Gavron allows us to understand the political situation in the Middle East in careful, profound and nuanced terms. He is unafraid to go into zones of conflict and find the essential human contradictions there. Gavron’s work is engaging in the way that all good literature entertains – it is, in fact, very funny – but it also has lasting purpose.”In short, Gavron’s novels harness the rhetorical power of fiction by reminding us that the veracity of any story is bound to and enveloped in the identity of the story’s teller.

In the last pages of his novel, Almost Dead, the central character—Croc—sits in on a pep talk from his boss at Time’s Arrow, where Croc is in the business of saving time:

Why are we forever running from one place to another? Because we exist in a state of terror: the terror of time, the terror of time ending, the terror of death. Because we’re afraid of time, we look for solace in the patterns we create in it, in the circle of an hour, in days, in the illusory beginnings and endings of events without any. We try to escape it—in sleep, in dreams, in drink, in meditation, in mystical beliefs—or we work like crazy to try and create the illusion that we are in fact in control.”

We try to escape terror, too, through fiction—the art form concerned primarily with time—and Gavron creates the illusion of control eloquently and evocatively, ultimately inviting us to live at once in the realm of the future and the past, asking simultaneously what if? and what next?

Please join me as I welcome to the University of Denver, Assaf Gavron.

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Review of The Hilltop by Adam Kirsch in Tablet

“Gavron turns out to be a natural fit for an American readership….The Hilltop, just published in a vigorous and colloquial English translation by Steven Cohen, is a ‘great Israeli novel’ in much the same way that Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom was a ‘great American novel.’ Like Franzen, Gavron writes realistic fiction with a comic edge that aims to take the temperature of his whole society, to tell us how Israelis live now….The Hilltop maintains its composure and hopeful good spirits throughout, even when dealing with the gravest problems in Israeli society. Indeed, Gavron offers a welcome antidote to the panic and pessimism that informs so much American Jewish discourse about Israel. Despite everything, he suggests, there is room for hope, for laughter, and for sheer ordinary life.”
–Adam Kirsch, Tablet

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Review of The Hilltop in Times of Israel

“There are no easy outcomes in this novel, but such is the reality in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Incidents described in the book could easily be sprouting from today’s newspaper headlines; the advantage of reading about them in a work of fiction is that the talented author can include Biblical rhythms, satire, humor, compassion, and even wisdom in the descriptions of those involved – settlers, soldiers, and Palestinians alike.

The Hilltop is a fascinating read, a balanced portrayal of an often despised group of Israelis. Gavron, one of Israel’s leading literary talents, successfully humanizes a charged, political situation, giving voice to all sides without polemics or bias. The story with all of its facets and subplots, is truly enjoyable, making one wonder what will happen next in the wild, wild West Bank after the novel ends.”

Review of The Hilltop by Ellis Shuman, Times of Israel

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Review of The Hilltop in the Los Angeles Times

“A sprawling novel that revolves around a small settlement in the occupied territories, its focus is less satirical than absurdist, offering a middle vision between the ridiculous and the sublime….the pleasure of THE HILLTOP is that it doesn’t offer easy outcomes.”

A review of The Hilltop by David Ulin, Los Angeles Times

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This review also appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Oregon Bulletin, the Wichita Eagle, and the Orlando Sentinel

 

 

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Interview in Book Inc., Connecticut book website

“literature has a way of returning us to the human that is paradoxically both individual and universal, raising questions that defy simple answers.”

Interview published in Book Inc., ahead of my event in Madison, CT

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The Hilltop in Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week

“Memorable novel…”

The Hilltop is one of 11 books (only three of them novels) on Publishers Weekly’s PW Picks: Books of the Week.

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Review of The Hilltop on The Wall Street Journal

“Brilliantly attuned to the madhouse complexities of the current settlement crisis… The superbly orchestrated chaos makes this an indispensable novel…”

Review of The Hilltop by Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

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Podcast on The Hilltop, TLV1 radio

Podcast on The Hilltop, in Marcela Sulak’s literary program Israel in Translation, on TLV1 radio.

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Interview about Tel Aviv Noir on TLV1 radio

Interview with Ishai Golan about Tel Aviv Noir, on the Tel Aviv State if Mind culture show on TLV1 radio.

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Review of The Hilltop in Library Journal

“Funny and entertaining….Gavron expertly works with a large cast of characters to create a resonant portrayal of life at the center of one of the world’s main trouble spots.”—Library Journal

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Starred review for The Hilltop in Kirkus Reviews

Another starred review…

“… crisp insight and dry humor… Slowly and incrementally, like those settlers on that craggy West Bank hilltop, Gavron’s story gains a foothold in our hearts and minds and stubbornly refuses to leave.”

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Starred Review of The Hilltop in Booklist

(STARRED REVIEW)
The Hilltop.

Gavron, Assaf (Author)

Israeli settler Othniel just wants to grow some arugula, some tomatoes, and keep a goat. He wanders out of his settlement onto a hilltop overlooking the Judean desert and a Palestinian village and comes upon the ideal plot of land. Soon he’s the unofficial leader of an illegal little settlement contending with a monstrous web of red tape. Israeli novelist Gavron (Almost Dead, 2010) populates this outlaw outpost with transfixing characters, focusing most on two kibbutz-raised brothers. Gabi came to the hilltop as a “reborn” intent on living simply and honestly with God. Roni is a fugitive from a misadventure in America. Both are risk-takers, but Roni, who quickly negotiates a deal to sell Palestinian olive oil, is calculating, while emotional Gabi is a victim of his demonically vengeful anger. As Gavron slowly reveals their rollercoaster pasts, life on the hilltop grows evermore imperiled as the rogue settlers finally provoke the wrath of the epically ambivalent authorities by triggering an international incident. This many-storied, funny, shrewd, and tender satire dives into the heart of Israel, a land of trauma and zeal, fierce opinions and endless deliberation. From failed marriages to governmental dysfunction to the tragic Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Gavron’s spirited desert saga embraces the absurd and the profound and advocates for compassion and forgiveness, even joy.

- Donna Seaman

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Piece on Tel Aviv Noir in JTA

“The 14 stories in “Tel Aviv Noir,” all original and commissioned for this volume, are divided into three categories: Encounter, Estrangements and Corpses. Keret and Gavron agreed that a major goal of the anthology was to bring a younger generation of writers to English-speaking audiences.”

Article by Beth Kissileff for the JTW

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Review of Tel Aviv Noir in Kirkus Reviews

“Even in the Holy Land, people find ingenious ways to screw up their own lives, as the latest entry in Akashic’s Noir series proves.”

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Starred review of Tel Aviv Noir in Booklist

(Starred review)

Tel Aviv Noir.

Keret, Etgar (Editor) and Gavron, Assaf (Editor)

For those unfamiliar with the city, Tel Aviv conjures upcontrasting images of sunny beaches and political turmoil, but, like other urban landscapes, it has a noir underbelly where human passions run deep. This latest installment in Akashic’s series of noir short-story anthologies shows readers that hidden Tel Aviv. Only one of the 14 stories, each set in a different neighborhood, could be considered a traditional mystery, but most feature individuals under some kind of duress. In “The Time-Slip Detective,” Lavie Tidhar tells the story of a sleuth who moves between parallel worlds as he works in two dimensions, while Gadi Taub’s “Sleeping Mask” illustrates what happens when the owner of an escort service falls in love with one of his girls. “Slow Cooking,” by Deakla Keydar, is less dark, offering a touching story about an abandoned wife who finds solace and purpose when she volunteers to cook meals for African refugees. This consistently strong collection showcases a group of Israeli writers who are not well known in the U.S. Definitely one of the highlights in the long-running Akashic series. — Barbara Bibel

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Review of The Hilltop in Publishers Weekly

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Review of Tel Aviv Noir in Publishers Weekly

Review of Tel Aviv Noir forthcoming in the August 25 issue of Publishers Weekly:

Israeli founding father David Ben-Gurion famously stated, “We will know we have become a normal country when Jewish thieves and Jewish prostitutes conduct their business in Hebrew.” That “normality” is certainly evident in the 14 stories in this routine Akashic anthology, which feature murderers, hookers, pimps, drug dealers, and mobsters, both Jewish and Arab, though it’s not always clear how they fit the noir label. Some selections could have been transplanted from Tel Aviv to other cities with only minor changes—and none deals with politics or the Palestinian situation. The standouts are Gai Ad’s “The Expendables” and Antonio Ungar’s “Said the Good.” James M. Cain would recognize the setup of Ad’s story, in which the life of an attractive widow takes a violent turn after her husband’s cancer-related death leaves her at loose ends. Ungar’s tale of warring organized crime factions would certainly make Ben-Gurion feel , for better or worse, that Israel is now normal. (Oct.)

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Starred review for Tel Aviv Noir in Library Journal

Forthcoming in the September issue of Library Journal:

Since the start, Akashic’s short story series has been a classy enterprise, specializing in crime noir set in specific locations. The 66th volume may be the very best in a generally solid series. Edited by noted Israeli writers Keret (Suddenly, A Knock at the Door) and Gavron (Almost Dead), this collection runs the gamut from Lavie Tidhar’s fantasy of a detective who works in parallel worlds (“The Time-Slip Detective”) to Matan Hermoni’s “Women” about a writer who inherits a ghost and Deakla Keydar’s touching story (“Slow Cooking”) of an abandoned wife who finds purpose aiding African refugees who are worse off than she is. Shimon Adaf’s gnomic contribution, “My Father’s Kingdom,” is only nominally a detective tale. In it, a student becomes obsessed with the esoteric poems of a poet who committed suicide. It reads like Franz Kafka filtered through Jorge Louis Borges. Antonio Ungar’s “Säid the Good” tells a remorselessly unsentimental account of star-crossed lovers, vengeance, and death, and in the most conventional offering, Assaf Gavron’s “Center,” a PI tracks down a missing person by following the trail of his severed parts. VERDICT This collection escapes the limits of formula fiction and sets the bar high for subsequent “Noir” offerings. The genre is hot, Tel Aviv is exotic, and this volume is outstanding. What’s not to like? [Scribner is publishing Gavron’s Bernstein Award–winning The Hilltop in October.—Ed.]—David Keymer, Modesto, CA

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Tweet about the Hilltop from Belgium

Belgian TV journalist Patrick van Gompel with a nice tweet on The Hilltop

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Review of The Hilltop in NRC-Handelsblad, Holland

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Tel Aviv Noir published in Hebrew

Tel Aviv Noir, an anthology of Noir stories set in Tel Aviv, by 14 writers, co-edited by Etgar Keret and myself, was published in Hebrew by Kinneret-Zmora-Bitan. The English edition will be published in October.

Read about it on the Akashic website (English) >>>

Buy (Hebrew) >>>

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Interview in The Ilanot Review

“I tend to do a lot of research, probably too much. As someone who lives in Tel Aviv and who is secular, I needed to at least connect to the place, to the people and to the synagogue. I needed to see how people live.”

Interview in the summer 2014 issue of Ilanot Review, The Bar Ilan University English department quarterly. Interview by Nadia Jacobson.

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Piece on Gaza etc., published in Sweden, Italy, Holland, Germany and Greece

My piece on Gaza and the current situation was published in newspapers in Sweden, Italy, Holland and Germany. Read the article in:

Dagens Nyheter (Swedish) >>>

La Republica (Italian) >>>

NRC Handelsblad (Dutch) >>>

Die Zeit (German) >>>

To vima (Greek) >>>

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On current affairs in German newspaper Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger

A few points about the current Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza and Tel Aviv, published in German newspaper Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger. Interview by Martin Oehlen

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Interview in Giornale di Brescia

Interview by Francesco Mannoni, published in Italian newspaper Giornale di Brescia.

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The Hilltop out in Holland

The Hilltop was published in Dutch translation by publisher Nieuw Amsterdam.

The book’s page on the publisher’s website >>>

Online shop >>>

Sample of first chapters and info (Dutch) >>>

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Interview in the Jerusalem Report

“America has always fascinated me, and I mean the heart of America not just New York or L.A.”

An interview about The Hilltop (which WAS on the bestsellers lists despite what is claimed there…), The Jerusalem Book Fair and more by Judith Sudilovsky published in the Jerusalem Report.

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Reviews of Croc Attack in Greek newspapers

Here is a review from Greek newspaper, KATHIMERINI.

Read review (Greek) >>>

And here’s another review published in Greece earlier this month (June 3rd), from the local newspaper of Arta town.

Read review (Greek) >>>

And another (Greek) >>>

And another (Greek) >>>

 

 

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