On the front cover of “To Be a Princess” by Nimrod Liram are two competing pictures of cars, a classic 1969 and a modern 2009 Cadillac. After reading his novel, I’m not sure where Liram got these ideas for the title and cover art.
The title has almost nothing to do with any of the content, particularly because princesses are never mentioned, and the entirety of the work comes from the perspective of male characters. As for the cars, it seems like they represent the passage of time, but time is not a very prominent theme in the book.
Instead of a single plotline, “To Be a Princess” is a compilation of 10 short stories; two are based off of Liram’s Israeli army experiences, and the rest are influenced by real events, though mostly fictional. It was difficult to draw connections between the stories, and I would be interested to know what inspired Liram to throw them all together.
The short stories range from an unfulfilled teenage love story to a middle-aged technology guru searching for a life outside of the business world. The span of characters was really interesting, and the character development was well done for a short story.
However, the style of writing, diction and speaking patterns were mostly similar between characters which hindered the separation between stories.
Overall, the novel was easy to read and understand. I sped through most of the stories, wanting to know what happened to each man and the lessons they learned, though I was slightly bored by the war stories. The most prevalent theme was identity – finding oneself and making the hard decisions.
In one story, Simon, a wandering traveler in search of something more to his life, ends up doing labor for Panos. Desperate to keep Simon at his disposal, he arranges the future marriage of Simon and his daughter; however, Simon realizes he does not want to remain in the small town, and even though it hurts the family and young woman he has grown accustomed to, sets off on his next adventure.
In another story, a retired soldier is asked for his opinion on the case of an Israeli commander who on a night raid accidentally kills an Arab man. The latter died from his injuries, but he was the one who provoked the attack and grabbed the soldier’s automatic weapon; the story asks, was the murder justified?
Beyond the print, I believe this is a deeper analogy to the Arab-Israeli conflict and Liram, as someone deeply involved with the struggle, is questioning the morality of the fight itself.
Other highlights in “To Be A Princess” were the happenings of three young adults while studying and making their way across Europe. It had a lighter touch than some of the other stories and was a sharp contrast to the tales that included men the same age who were fighting in active war zones.
And that’s another thing to be said: The differences contrasted with the intrinsic similarities between all the men reveal truths of the human condition. We all struggle; we all must face the reality of our lives; and we sometimes make one decision that changes the course of our life.
If anything, Liram’s discombobulated stories are a quick, entertaining read. Some of the characters are distant bores, but others will resonate with something you find in yourself.
“To Be a Princess” is an exploration of different ways of life, but I guarantee you won’t come across any fairytales.
By Jessie Miller