Scream Queens of the Dead Sea
by Gilad Elbom
Category: Fiction / General
295 pages; ISBN: 1-56858-322-2
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Coletta Ollerer
A trek through life in the state of Israel seen through the eyes of a young man with a degree in comparative literature and linguistics from Hebrew University but who has taken a job as an assistant nurse in a mental institution. He is obsessed with his girlfriend, Carmel, who is possessed of an activist mindset. Their sexual encounters continue even though they have resolved to keep their feelings for each other purely platonic. He is also consumed with writing a book, she with imposing her views on his consciousness.
Gilad Elbom’s stream of consciousness style is engaging and pulls the reader along. We become interested in his charges at the hospital. He seems to have an affection for them while Dr Himmelblau, the psychiatrist in charge, advises, “the best thing to do when dealing with the mentally ill is to keep a distance.” (p4) Gilad finds this difficult since the unit is so small. “For some reason, maybe because systematic vilification of those who try to help them is one of the symptoms of their illness, all my patients seem to hate me.” (p4) He tries conversing with those under his care. “Dr Himmelblau says that I ought to keep doing my job regardless of any protest on the part of the patients, because one of the most important objectives of the rehabilitation process in the unit is to teach them how to engage in everyday conversations.” (p25) While he finds the job frustrating, he enjoys working the relatively quiet evening shift.
The frequent seemingly co-dependent arguments between Gilad and Carmel add interest to the story as the two reveal themselves to the reader. Their conflicts are both entertaining and energetic. I find myself enjoying them as if I were overhearing them in a crowded room. I am happy, however, to keep my literary distance.
They decide to go to Jehrico for an overnight to get away and visit a gambling casino. “Gambling is illegal in Israel, but now that Jericho is under Palestinian self-rule, it’s okay for Israelis to go there.” (p224) While Gilad is taking a shower at the hotel, Carmel exits the room. He begins a frenzied search for her assuming she is engaged sexually with an Arab activist they encountered earlier.
Gilad has an extensive interest in and knowledge of Heavy Metal Bands which an enthusiast would find very entertaining. “I play Countdown to Extinction while I’m making myself breakfast. I like Megadeth. No embarrassing orchestral maneuvers, no megalomaniacal lawsuits, no premature dinosaur status. It’s not quite as good as Rust in Peace, but they’re still aging a little more gracefully than, say Dave Nustaine’s old band.” (p107)
Gilad Elbom is a funny guy and his take on life removes the reader from the mundane and even brings a chuckle or two.
Buy Scream Queens of the Dead Sea at amazon.co.uk
Buy Scream Queens of the Dead Sea at amazon.com