Around the turn of the century many idealistic Jews left Russia to settle in Palestine; their efforts laid the groundwork of the modern state of Israel. The Blue Mountain, a best seller in Israel, focuses on four of these pioneers--three young men and the girl they all love--who settle down to farm the Jezreel valley. The strange four-way relationship they form will powerfully affect succeeding generations. Shalev's novel is complex and densely structured, moving back and forth in time, hinting at slowly revealed secrets. His characters are stubborn, argumentative, full of quirks and crotchets, irritating but believable individuals. History here has not been prettied up; the novel at times is as awkward and uncompromising as its main characters. Overall, a demanding but often gripping look at what it costs to make dreams a reality.