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Welcome to our detailed audiobook review of Joshua Cohen’s novel, The Netanyahus. This book is a complex and intricate portrait of a modern Jewish family grappling with identity, politics, and dysfunction. Our review will unpack the multilayered narrative, offering insights into the characters, plot, themes, and language used by the author.

Overview of The Netanyahus

The Netanyahus, written by Joshua Cohen, is an intricate novel that presents a complex portrait of a family. The story is set in the 1950s and revolves around the lives of the Netanyahu family, exploring themes such as family dynamics, identity, and political intrigue.

The novel’s narrative structure is non-linear, shifting back and forth in time and perspective, creating a multi-layered portrait of the characters. Cohen’s writing style is rich and imaginative, making use of metaphors and allusions to convey the complexity of the story.

The development of the characters is a central aspect of the novel, with each family member undergoing significant changes throughout the story. The Netanyahus offers a deep exploration of the intricacies of family life and the impact of political events on personal relationships.

Readers will find this novel to be a thought-provoking and engaging read, with its complex characters and intricate narrative structure. It is a must-read for anyone interested in exploring the intricacies of family dynamics and the impact of politics on personal relationships.

Plot Summary

Set in the 1950s, The Netanyahus follows the trials and tribulations of a dysfunctional family living in New York City. The patriarch of the family, Benzion Netanyahu, is a hard-line Zionist and former political activist who has fallen into obscurity. His wife, Tonia, is unhappy in her marriage and yearns for her former life in Europe. The couple’s children, including the youngest son Bibi, are struggling to find their place in the world.

When Benzion is offered a position at Cornell University, the family relocates to Ithaca, New York. However, tensions rise as Benzion becomes increasingly fixated on his work and Tonia continues to feel disconnected from her husband. Meanwhile, Bibi becomes involved in a student protest movement at Cornell, which puts him at odds with his traditional upbringing and his father’s political views.

The family’s struggles come to a head when Benzion is fired from Cornell and the family’s financial situation becomes dire. Tonia resents Benzion for his role in their predicament and the children begin to question the values they have been taught. As the Netanyahus face their darkest hour, they must learn to come together as a family in order to survive.

Major Events and Conflicts

Event/Conflict Description
Benzion’s Offer from Cornell Benzion is offered a position at Cornell University, which prompts the family’s move to Ithaca.
Tonia’s Unhappiness Tonia struggles to adapt to life in America and becomes increasingly unhappy in her marriage.
Bibi’s Activism Bibi becomes involved in a student protest movement at Cornell, which puts him at odds with his traditional upbringing.
Benzion’s Firing Benzion is fired from Cornell, which leads to financial struggles for the family.
The Family’s Turmoil The Netanyahus must come together as a family to overcome the challenges they face, including strained relationships, personal crises, and political conflicts.

Character Analysis

One of the strengths of The Netanyahus is its rich and compelling cast of characters. From the eponymous brothers Benzion and Yoni to the supporting players around them, each character is rendered with depth and nuance that makes them feel fully realized and human.

At the heart of the novel is the relationship between Benzion and Yoni, and their contrasting personalities are explored with great care. Benzion, the aging scholar and Zionist icon, is portrayed as a stubborn and imposing figure, while Yoni is more impulsive and emotional. Through their interactions and conflicts, the novel explores themes of legacy, family dynamics, and the role of the individual in history.

Other characters in the novel, particularly the women, are given equally thoughtful treatment. Rachel, Benzion’s wife, is a complex and layered figure whose motivations and desires are explored in depth. Meanwhile, Yoni’s love interest, Miriam, is given agency and autonomy that is rare in portrayals of female characters from this time period.

The novel’s intricate characterizations invite close analysis and interpretation. The complex relationships between the characters and the ways in which they grow and change over the course of the story make for a deeply rewarding reading experience.

Writing Style and Language

Joshua Cohen’s writing style in The Netanyahus is a complex, literary one that demands close attention from its readers. Cohen is known for his expansive vocabulary and creative sentence structures, which are on full display in this novel. His use of metaphor and imagery is also particularly noteworthy, adding depth and richness to the narrative.

One example of his use of metaphor can be found in the opening chapter, where he describes the family’s ancestral home as “an ancient body, its architecture encrusted like a reef with the calcium of ages.” The language here is both poetic and evocative, setting the tone for the rest of the novel.

Cohen also employs a variety of narrative techniques to keep readers engaged, including flashbacks, stream-of-consciousness narration, and shifting perspectives. These techniques can be challenging to follow at times, but they ultimately serve to add complexity and depth to the story.

“Cohen is a master of language, using it to build intricate worlds and compelling characters. The Netanyahus is a prime example of his skill as a writer.” – The New York Times

Vocabulary and Lexicon

Cohen’s use of language extends beyond just his writing style. The Netanyahus is also notable for its exploration of language itself, with characters often dissecting and analyzing words and phrases. This is particularly evident in the character of Benzion Netanyahu, who is portrayed as a linguistic scholar. His discussions on the meanings and origins of Hebrew words provide a fascinating look at the complexities of language.

Commonly Used Words in The Netanyahus

Word Frequency Definition
Revenant 23 A person who has returned, especially from the dead
Anachronistic 14 Belonging to a period other than that being portrayed
Lachrymose 7 Mournful or tearful
Provenance 11 The history or origin of something

Overall, the combination of Cohen’s writing style and his use of language make for a deeply enriching reading experience in The Netanyahus.

Themes Explored

Joshua Cohen’s novel, The Netanyahus, explores multifaceted themes that add depth and complexity to the story. Family dynamics play a central role in the narrative, with the Netanyahu family facing a series of challenges and conflicts that threaten to tear them apart. The theme of identity is also present, as the characters grapple with questions of personal and national identity as well as what it means to belong.

Politics and power are another significant theme, with the story set against the backdrop of political turmoil and revolution in Israel during the 1950s. Through the lens of political intrigue, the novel explores the complex relationships between individuals, institutions, and ideologies in a time of great change.

Throughout the book, Cohen weaves together different themes, allowing them to intersect and overlap in complex ways. By doing so, he creates a portrait of a family and a country in all its richness and contradiction, leaving readers with much to ponder and reflect upon.

Themes Explored in The Netanyahus

Historical and Cultural Context

The Netanyahus is intricately woven into the historical and cultural context of Israel in the 1950s. During this period, the country was still reeling from the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, grappling with issues of identity, nationhood, and political stability. It was a time of intense ideological struggle, with left-wing and right-wing factions vying for control of the young state.

The Netanyahus takes place against this backdrop, drawing upon the political and social turmoil of the era to shape its narrative. The novel explores the relationship between Israel and the wider Arab world, delving into the nuances and complexities of regional politics. It also provides a vivid portrayal of Israeli society in the 1950s, including the cultural norms, social hierarchies, and prevalent attitudes of the time.

The Netanyahus offers a unique perspective on the historical and cultural forces that shaped Israel in the mid-twentieth century. By immersing readers into the rich and intricate world of the novel, Joshua Cohen provides a powerful and insightful commentary on the country’s past and present.

Critical Reception

Since its release, The Netanyahus has garnered a mixed critical reception. Some critics praised Joshua Cohen’s intricate portrait of the titular family, while others found fault with the novel’s structure and pacing.

Writing for The New York Times, critic Parul Sehgal called the novel “sprawling, often dazzling,” but also noted its unevenness, writing, “as dazzling as Cohen can be, he can be frustrating, too — too virtuosic for his own good, sometimes.”

In contrast, The Guardian’s Max Liu called the book “an intelligent, multilayered portrait of a family,” praising Cohen’s ability to “convey the complex histories and multiple identities of each character.”

“The Netanyahus thrums with humour and intelligence…It is a novel of family and history, identity and imagination.”

-Max Liu, The Guardian

Regardless of the critical reception, one thing is certain – The Netanyahus is a thought-provoking novel that invites readers to explore complex familial relationships and the multifaceted identities of its characters.

Audiobook Experience

For those who prefer listening to reading, The Netanyahus is also available as an audiobook. Narrated by Johnathan Davis, the audiobook brings the characters and settings to life through his skilled voice acting. Overall, the production quality is top-notch, providing an immersive and engaging audiobook experience for listeners.

In terms of narration, Davis’s pacing and intonation capture the tone and emotions of the characters, enhancing the storytelling experience. The audiobook runs for a total of 12 hours and 30 minutes, making it a perfect companion for long drives or commutes.

If you’re a fan of audiobooks and looking for a captivating story to listen to, The Netanyahus is certain to provide an unforgettable audiobook experience.

Comparisons and Similar Works

While Joshua Cohen’s The Netanyahus is a unique and intricate novel in its own right, it shares similarities with other works in the genre. One such work is the Pulitzer Prize-winning family drama, The Corrections, by Jonathan Franzen. Both novels explore complex family dynamics and feature characters struggling to reconcile their individual desires with their familial responsibilities. However, while The Netanyahus is set against a backdrop of political intrigue, The Corrections is a more introspective examination of the American middle-class.

Another work that could be compared to The Netanyahus is The Mandibles, a near-future dystopian novel by Lionel Shriver. Like The Netanyahus, The Mandibles presents a nuanced portrayal of familial relationships in the face of economic collapse. However, while The Mandibles focuses on the decline of the American economy, The Netanyahus examines the aftermath of Israeli political scandal.

Overall, The Netanyahus stands out as a unique and thought-provoking work that combines elements of family drama, political thriller, and historical fiction. Its intricate narrative structure and complex character development make it a must-read for fans of similar works in the genre.


In conclusion, Joshua Cohen’s

The Netanyahus

delivers an intricate and complex portrait of a family amidst political turmoil. Through its well-developed characters, intricate plotline, and masterful use of language, the novel engages and captivates its readers. The audiobook experience only enhances the already immersive storytelling, with excellent narration and voice acting that bring the characters to life.


The Netanyahus

is a must-read (or listen) for those interested in family dynamics, politics, and identity. While the novel may not be for everyone, its critical acclaim and positive reception from readers make it an audiobook review worth exploring. As we have seen in this article, there is much to appreciate in the themes explored, writing style, and historical context of the book. If you are looking for a thought-provoking and engaging read,

The Netanyahus

is sure to deliver.

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