Disobedience (novel)

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Disobedience: A Novel
Cover of Disobedience, book by Naomi Alderman.jpg
The front cover of the first edition (hardcover)
Author Naomi Alderman
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Publication date
March 2006[2]
Media type Print (hardback and paperback), e-book, audiobook[2]
Pages 256
ISBN 9780670916283

Disobedience is the debut novel by British author Naomi Alderman. First published in the UK in March 2006,[2] the novel has since been translated into ten languages.[3] Disobedience follows a rabbi's lesbian daughter as she returns from New York to her Orthodox Jewish community in Hendon, London.[4] Although the subject matter was considered somewhat controversial, the novel was well received and earned Alderman the 2006 Orange Award for New Writers and the 2007 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award.[3]


The novel is a first-person narrative of Ronit Krushka,[2] a 32-year-old non-practising Orthodox Jew, who is working in New York as a financial analyst and having an affair with her married male boss. The death of her estranged father, a powerful rabbi, brings Ronit back to her childhood home in Hendon, London, where her provocative ways outrage the local Orthodox Jewish community. Discovering that her cousin Dovid, who is also her father's chosen successor, is married to her former lover, Esti, forces Ronit to rethink what she left behind.[1][5]


Similar to her protagonist Ronit, Naomi Alderman grew up in the Orthodox Jewish community in Hendon before moving to New York, and the novel is about places Alderman is familiar with. However, Alderman has said that the novel is not based on events in her life.[6] According to Alderman, writing the novel led her to cease being a practising Jew.[7]


Critical response[edit]

The novel received generally positive reviews. According to The Telegraph's Lucy Beresford, "Despite some novelistic weaknesses, Alderman's commentary on Orthodox Judaism in the 21st century is thought-provoking and illuminating, and she has the comic's gift to assassinate from within with compassion."[5] The New York Times' Elsa Dixler enjoyed the "acerbic and self-aware" Ronit, and concluded that: "Although the novel’s plot is somewhat creaky and its climax seems contrived, the strength of this insular congregation is clearly conveyed."[8] The San Francisco Chronicle's Sara Peyton noted that: "at her best, Alderman provides a window into a world that appears at once strange and foreboding, revealing its human flaws as well as its spiritual beauty."[9]

On the other hand, the novel caused some controversy in the Orthodox Jewish community. The Jewish Chronicle gave the novel a scathing review,[10][6] while another Jewish paper refused to review it.[7] Writing for The Guardian, Dina Rabinovitch, herself an Orthodox Jew, gave the novel a poor review, commenting that "this feels like writing-by-numbers" and that "[n]one of the personalities here gets beyond the two-dimensional."[4]


The novel earned Alderman the 2006 Orange Award for New Writers and the 2007 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. Alderman was also selected as one of the Waterstones 25 Writers for the Future.[3] The novel was a finalist for the Jewish Book Council's 2007 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature[11] and 2008 National Jewish Book Award for Fiction.[12]


A ten-part reading of an abridged serialisation of the novel was first broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime in 2006. The radio adaptation was read by Sara Kestelman and Tracy-Ann Oberman.[13]

A film adaptation of the novel, directed by Sebastián Lelio with screenplay by Lelio and playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz, was completed in 2017. The film stars Rachel Weisz as Ronit, Rachel McAdams as Esti, and Alessandro Nivola as Dovid. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 10 September 2017 and was generally well received by critics. Disobedience is scheduled for wide release in 2018.[14]


  1. ^ a b "Disobedience (official publisher's page)". Penguin Books. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Fiction Book Review: Disobedience by Naomi Alderman". Publishers Weekly. 17 July 2006. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Jilani, Sarah (26 October 2016). "Naomi Alderman interview: 'The book's not mine anymore, the rights are sold'". The Independent.
  4. ^ a b Rabinovitch, Dina (4 March 2006). "This is Hendon: Disobedience by Naomi Alderman gives Dina Rabinovitch the small-town blues". The Guardian.
  5. ^ a b Beresford, Lucy (2 July 2006). "A prize-winning portrait of a very unorthodox jew". The Telegraph.
  6. ^ a b Lev-Ari, Shiri (12 January 2007). "The rebel who came home". Haaretz.
  7. ^ a b Armitstead, Claire (28 October 2016). "Naomi Alderman: 'I went into the novel religious and by the end I wasn't. I wrote myself out of it'". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Dixler, Elsa (26 November 2006). "Fiction Chronicle". The New York Times.
  9. ^ Peyton, Sara (10 September 2006). "Lesbian caught between religion and outside world". San Francisco Chronicle.
  10. ^ "Interview: Naomi Alderman, author". The Scotsman. 11 April 2010.
  11. ^ "Sami Rohr Prize 2007". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  12. ^ "Disobedience (official publisher's page)". Simon & Schuster. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  13. ^ "Naomi Alderman - Disobedience: Episode 1". BBC.
  14. ^ Shoardl, Catherine (5 October 2016). "Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams to star in adaptation of Disobedience". The Guardian.

External links[edit]