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With rich history like this, who needs docudrama?

As doorstop best sellers go, Herman Wouk's melodramas The Winds of War and War and Remembrance were tolerable entertainment. The historical framework of World War II was well enough known that the author could focus on the adventures of his solid-oak characters without having to teach history. That's not true of The Hope (Little, Brown; 693 pages; $24.95), Wouk's earnest novel about Israel's first two decades, beginning with the fight for independence in 1948 and carrying through the Six-Day War in 1967.

The author's new book destroys itself before the reader's eyes, as a fascinating popular history battles without success to...

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