A True Story of a Suicide Bomb, a Heart and the Nature of Human Identity

By: Rowan Somerville

Publication Date: 1 June 2017

(6 customer reviews)


In the midst of the Second Intifada, two acts of extreme violence lead to an act of extraordinary humanity. A suicide bomb was detonated outside a nightclub in Tel Aviv, killing twenty-two people, mostly young Israelis. The next day, in an apparently retributive act of violence, an Israeli settler shot Palestinian pharmacist, Mazan Al-Joulani in the neck, rendering him brain-dead. From the ashes of these deadly events, rose an incredible act of generosity, when the family of Al-Joulani agreed to donate his heart to a dying Israeli.

The son of pioneering cardiologists, Rowan Somerville travelled to the Levant to speak with survivors and their families, interviewing the surgeon who performed the transplant, and meeting the family of the Tel Aviv suicide bomber Saeed Hotari. In this moving account of human anger and forgiveness, Somerville untangles the roots of violence, faith and tribal conflict, and examines the possibility of redemption. In this close look at humanity at work, Somerville’s writing is at once personal and objective, an outsider’s unbiased view of events steeped in, but overcoming, prejudice. The close observations and fast-paced narrative style have the immediacy of a contemporary thriller.

Expertly weaving together events immediately before and after the violence, and his own experiences speaking with survivors and people concerned, Somerville gives a nuanced reading of the many uses of the human heart.

“Rowan Somerville has written an amazing book. Beat is a riveting, intelligent and scrupulously honest journey through the torment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It runs the gamut of human behaviour, from blood-curdling barbarity to extraordinary generosity; a tour-de-force.” – Lara Marlowe, The Irish Times


Rowan Somerville was born in London in 1966 and studied Literature at the University of Edinburgh. He has worked in film, television and radio. He is the author of two novels, The End of Sleep, shortlisted for the 2009 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and The Shape of Her (2010)



Also available as an ebook

6 reviews for Beat

  1. Lilliput Press

    Rowan Somerville has written an amazing book. Beat is a riveting, intelligent and scrupulously honest journey through the torment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It runs the gamut of human behaviour, from blood-curdling barbarity to extraordinary generosity; a tour-de-force.

    – Lara Marlowe, The Irish Times

  2. Lilliput Press

    “As a 60 year old I have both Jewish and Arabic friends. None have been able to clarify why this politically created situation has been so neglected considering the responsibilty that is owed to the communities the was decree was inflicted on. Rowan Somerville, through story telling supported by assidious attention to fact has helped me comprehend better. The book is compelling for those who would like to understand and care about the position of both communities. It is not a story told and reported by press; they have their own agenda. It is a brave book. It deserves to be read widely. It should stimulate discussion and thought. Wendy Drayson” DR D

  3. Lilliput Press

    “I couldn’t put it down. Deeply moving, pure and intimate, wise and chatty, very funny and at times madly irresponsible as in his trip to Ramallah. Whichever side of the Middle East your views lie, this book will challenge them. The author had never been to Israel before but he captured it from the moment he boarded the flight. His voice is clear and full of humanity and his heart is open which is very relevant as the book is about a heart and the gift of life” ADELIA BERNINI

  4. Lilliput Press

    “Provocative, thought-provoking, intelligent journalism with the plotting of a thriller. Leant more about the Middle East from this book than 20 years of reading news articles. Highly recommended.” P WARD

  5. Lilliput Press

    “Beat is excellent.

    Pulling together different strands and narratives with a true storyteller’s heart and a great journalist’s unflinching honesty, Somerville has created a fascinating look at the threads of kindness and generosity that are spun so delicately in a world of extreme conflict and barbarity.” JACK DYSON

  6. Lilliput Press

    “‘Beat’ looks at the best and the worst in people; it latches onto and celebrates the best and it desperately, somehow, tries to understand the worst. The result is a book that is both breath-taking and impossible to put down.

    I didn’t think, at first, that I wanted to read a book with the sub-title ‘The true story about a suicide bomb and a heart’, simply because reading has always been a way for me to escape the worries of the world (right before falling asleep at night). Still, I tried the Kindle sample and got instantly sucked in. What I found in the book was not what I had expected; I found a kindness and childlike wonder that warmed my heart.

    To be honest, I don’t quite know how to explain the book to you. Ambitious, brave, intelligent and complex are the first words that come to mind. It seamlessly jumps between events, characters, inner musings, timezones, countries, quotes and historical information without missing a beat (no pun intended). The problem that some people will have with the book though is that it refuses to paint any situation—or any person—as simply ‘black or white’. Some people will feel uncomfortable exploring theses nuanced ‘shades of grey’. Personally, I found it refreshing and inspiring.

    Reading ‘Beat’ had a similar effect on me as reading Jonathan Franzen’s book ‘The corrections’ for the first time. The way that Franzen stitched together some of the most awe-inspiring sentences by connecting words that don’t usually get connected together, Sommerville stitches together events, quotes, and thoughts—creating a patchwork of mankind’s greatest achievements and shortcomings. Both books left me awestruck, where I felt like I was quietly watching masters at work.

    It may take a while for the word of mouth to spread, but this book deserves international recognition, and Rowan Sommerville deserves to be up there with the best of them. His wisdom and bravery in tackling such sensitive issues deserve to be celebrated.” SIMONE ENGELN

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Weight 0.4 kg
Dimensions 136 × 216 mm

Paperback: 296pp

Publication Date

1 June 2017

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