Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Message in a Bottle

Zenatti, Valerie (Author)
Bloomsbury 2008. 160 pages
First published: 2008
ISBN: 9780747590446 (paperback)
Original language: French
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

conflict, language conventions, point of view, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

When the café near Tal Levine’s house is bombed, the 17-year-old begins to write. And write and write—“defending herself against despair,” her father reflects later. Compelled to share her thoughts, she places a letter in a bottle and arranges for it to be thrown into the sea. So begins an email correspondence with an angry young Palestinian, Naïm. “Gazaman” and “bakbouk” (Tal’s email handle means bottle in Hebrew) get to know each other and, despite the religious and political chasm that separates them, to care for each other. In the end, the two never meet: Tal is about to finish high school and begin her military service, while Naïm plans to study medicine in Canada. In a last letter, he tells her to meet him at the Trevi fountain in Rome in three years: he will be the man holding a bottle.

The novel, which primarily consists of the diary of Tal and of Tal and Naïm’s emails, also includes several sections from the point of view of “Gazaman” himself. The combination of perspectives allows complex characters to emerge, even while each one is perceived, queried or lambasted according to the circumstances and preconceptions of the interlocutor. Naïm’s anger is plausibly written and the text subtly hints at the trepidation and ambivalence that mark Tal after she witnesses a bus bombing. The narrative is particularly unvarnished in presenting the living conditions in the Gaza Strip, and is replete with hope for peace: “Peace be with you,” Tal writes Naïm, “as we say in Hebrew, and as you do in Arabic.”

  •  

    The story is told through a series of email correspondences between Tal and Naïm. Think about the impact of epistolary storytelling on the reading experience.

  •  The author asserts: “It is not because some people are right that others are wrong.” In small groups, discuss how this quotation reflects the situation described in the novel. Make connections between the situations presented in the text and real world events.
  •  

    Using information gathered during reading and discussions, use a production process to write an expository text (article, opinion piece, etc.) on a topic or a big idea stemming from the text.

  •  View a teacher-selected online video of the signing of The Oslo Accords, September 13, 1993. Listen once, take notes during the second viewing, then share your general understanding.
  •  

    Select one of the unanswered emails sent by Tal. Put yourself in Naïm’s shoes and compose an email response.

  •  

    Write an epilogue for Tal and Naïm’s meeting, set three years in the future in front of the Trevi fountain in Italy.

  • To adopt effective work methods
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Personal Development
  • Social Sciences