Eshkol Nevo translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston

Three Floors Up

Publication Date: Oct 10, 2017

304 pp

Trade Paperback

List Price US $16.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
ISBN: 978-1-59051-878-6


ISBN: 978-1-59051-879-3

Finalist for the Fiction and Book Club categories of the 2017 National Jewish Book Awards

Set in a Tel Aviv apartment building, this best-selling Israeli novel examines a society in crisis, through the turmoils, secrets, unreliable confessions, and problematic decisions of the building’s residents.

On the first floor, Arnon, a tormented retired officer who fought in the First Intifada, confesses to an army friend how his obsession with his daughter’s safety led him to lose control and put his marriage in peril. Above Arnon lives Hani, known as “the widow.” Her husband travels the world for work while she stays at home with their two children, increasingly isolated and unstable. When her brother-in-law suddenly appears at their door begging her to hide him from loan sharks and the police, she agrees, in spite of the risk to her family, if only to bring some emotional excitement into her life. On the top floor lives a former judge, Devora. Retired and eager to start a new life, Devora joins a social movement, tries to reconnect with her estranged son, and falls in love with a man who isn’t what he seems.

A brilliant novelist, Eshkol Nevo vividly depicts the grinding effects of social and political ills played out in the psyche of these flawed, compelling characters, often in unexpected and explosive ways.

Excerpt from Three Floors Up

Maybe the difference is that in Hebron, I was responsible only for myself. And here I was responsible for my little girl. I knew I screwed up. It was so clear that I screwed up that Ayelet didn’t even waste time accusing me. The minute I got out of the car, she filled me in on the situation: the entire building was out searching, and there was also a police car on the way. They were combing our neighborhood. And the adjacent neighborhood too. I said, “I’ll kill him if he did something to her, I’ll just kill him.” Ayelet said, “We still don’t know what happened, maybe they just got lost.” But I saw in her eyes that she was also thinking about the kisses and the Hoppe, hoppe, Reiter. I asked if anyone was searching the citrus groves, and Ayelet said no, they hadn’t thought that far ahead. So I said, “I’ll go there and take my gun.”

“Why a gun?” she said.

“If he touched a hair on her head, that’s the end of him.”

When Ofri was in kindergarten, there was a kid there who harassed her. Saar Ashkenazi. She’d come home every day with stories. Saar Ashkenazi said this to her, Saar Ashkenazi did that to her. Ayelet spoke to the teacher, who said she hadn’t noticed anything special and that at that age, they still can’t always tell the difference between reality and imagination.

Finalist for the Fiction and Book Club categories of the 2017 National Jewish Book Awards

“Eshkol Nevo is a fascinating story teller who gives the reader a broad and diverse picture of Israeli society.” —Amos Oz, bestselling author of Judas

“Mesmerizing…this book and its conflicted apartment dwellers stayed with me long after I finished reading.” —New York Times Book Review

“Smart and absorbing…Nevo shows us life’s complexities in a thoroughly satisfying read.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Nevo is a funny, engaging writer.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Israeli bestseller Nevo returns with a transporting novel about the furtive lives of three tenants in a suburban Tel Aviv apartment building… Nevo’s narrators range from despicable to endearing, and he handles each with a sure hand, resulting in a multifaceted narrative that is easy to be carried away by.” Publishers Weekly 

“Best-selling Israeli novelist Nevo, his Hebrew fluidly translated by Sondra Silverston, cleverly infuses these quotidian albeit schadenfreude-inducing dramas with numerology (“everything is in threes”), Freudian analysis (the “three floors up” of id, ego, superego), the power of secrets (plus the greater threat of revenge), and the literary necessity for confessions (“if there is no one to listen–there is no story”).” —Booklist

“Israeli author Eshkol Nevo’s novel explores the social and cultural fabric of Israel through three tenants on three separate floors of an apartment building in Tel Aviv. Their individual stories and struggles are braided together with tight, terse prose, forming a cohesive picture of the broader society in which they reside.” —World Literature Today 

“Eshkol Nevo, in his astoundingly moving new book, Three Floors Up, brilliantly captures how the landscape of a marriage can become tenuous and dark while parents struggle with children who seem to need a little extra help. His three loosely interwoven stories take place in an upper-middle-class apartment building in Tel Aviv where neighbors observe one another quietly, grappling with their own growing desperation.” —Jerusalem Post 

“The novella-length chapters offer a compelling critique of Israeli society. But Nevo’s chief strength lies in his ability to fashion wonderfully relatable characters whose troubled voices, as well as mysterious and impulsive moods, render the work a page-turner…Nevo’s talent for embedding telling character traits and cultural anecdotes through quick one-liners is perhaps his greatest asset. The prose sings in places, and Three Floors Up is difficult to put down.” —Jewish News Service 

“A brilliant novelist, Eshkol Nevo vividly depicts the grinding effects of social and political ills played out in the psyche of these flawed, compelling characters, often in unexpected and explosive ways.” —Bookreporter

“Lively, tripartite novel by Eshkol Nevo, a highly admired Israeli author…Nevo creates three compulsive narrators, three unsparingly candid monologues, three stories that expose the psyches of people caught at critical points in their lives…Perceptive and compelling, Three Floors Up plays with the form of the novel itself and keeps the reader absorbed in its sets of triads.” —Jewish Book Council 

“Eshkol Nevo is a brilliant literary chemist who succeeds in extracting from daily life’s most mundane events, the deepest crystallized essence of the contemporary Israeli psyche.” —Etgar Keret

“Eshkol Nevo writes beautifully, funnily, and wisely about men and women…Friendship, envy, love, misery, endurance—he captures the lot.” —Roddy Doyle

  1. On page 11 Arnon says, “Before people had ulterior motives.” Do you think he has any ulterior motives in relating his story to his listener?
  2. Both Hani on the second floor and Devora in the third floor tell their listeners that they need a witness (pp 166, 201). On page 3 Arnon asks his listener to “promise not to put [his narration] in one of [the listener’s] books.” How do you as a reader feel about being let into the confidence of Arnon, Hani, and Devora, respectively? Do you feel like a witness or do you feel complicit?
  3. Do you think Arnon is a reliable narrator? Is he any more or less reliable than Hani or Devora?
  4. Why do you think Arnon sleeps with Herman’s granddaughter? Why do you think Hani is attracted to Eviatar? Do you think Devora could have reconnected with her son if Michael were still alive?
  5. How does Three Floors Up depict motherhood?
  6. In Eviatar’s story to Lyri, the scorpion felt that “he had to sting the turtle. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be a scorpion” (p114). What are the urges of each of the residents of the apartment building? Do they give in to all their urges? Do their desires define who they are?
  7. What are the similarities between Hani and Devora? Do you think Hani would have a stronger grip on “the confidence that [she] even has a self” (p 163) if she had chosen, like Devora, to return to work after three months?
  8. On page 174 Devora asks “Why not hitch a ride to the big city with a neighbor and join the demonstrators myself?” On page 187 she asks, “Didn’t those people have families or close friends they could talk to discreetly?” Do you think there’s any significance to the lack of communication between the residents of the apartment building in the novel? Do you think Devora will speak more to her neighbors in her new apartment?
  9. Which of the narrators had the voice you liked best? Why?
  10. After reading each of the interconnected stories in Three Floors Up, does it seem like Arnon, Hani, and Devora are living in the same country? What are the similarities that can be found in each of their stories? What are the differences?