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Lion's Honey (Canongate Myth Series)

3.33  ·  Rating Details  ·  344 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews

A consideration of one of the Bible’s most powerful stories from a leading Israeli writer In this fascinating reexamination of the story of Samson, David Grossman goes beyond the surface of the familiar tale to look into what the life of this extraordinary man must have been like. What it felt like to have been “chosen” to release his people from the yoke of the Philistine

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Published December 1st 2007 by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. (first published 2005)
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"Important, but not quite loved." -Thoughts on Lion's Honey by David Grossman (translated from Hebrew by Scott Schoffman)

I am no stranger to the story of Samson; I studied in a private, religious school for 13 years, during which I was - for lack of a better, or nicer, word - force-fed the Bible and its stories*. Samson's feats of strength (the only one I was ever able to remember was the one at the end, really - collapsing the two pillars and killing three thousand Philistines in one blow) and
Roy Elmer
As one of the Canongate Myths, I expected a retelling of an age old story, along similar lines to the rest of the series. I've read four or five of them now, and they've all been different, some great, some mediocre, none bad, and Grossman's take on Samson is no exception to this.

What Grossman has not done however, is provide a retelling of the myth of Samson. He has instead produced a work of literary criticism. Only it's not a terribly good work of criticism, if looked at from a critical persp
Jennifer (JC-S)
May 13, 2011 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarybooks
‘Out of the eater came something to eat/Out of the strong came something sweet.’

The story of Samson forms four chapters (13-16) of the Book of Judges. There are a number of aspects to the story, but the best known is that of the strong man who loses his strength when his hair is cut, thanks to Delilah. Samson is imprisoned by the Philistines but, in his final act, is able to bring down a building on himself and three thousand Philistines.

In this brief (145 page) book, written for The Myths seri
I really want to meet Grossman because his prose is heart breaking wonderful.

Grossman looks at the story of Samson and gives the story a very close reading. I doubt anyone who reads this book will look at the story of Samson the same way. Additionally, Grossman makes connections to current events, though not in a heavy handed way.

Grossman's look at Samson presents a rather interesting idea of a man who is chosen by who may lack free will. He also takes about dated readings of the story. (For in
Anna [Floanne]
Diciamo che non era ciò che mi aspettavo. Ho preso questo libro perché facente parte di un progetto chiamato "The Canongate myths" (una serie di racconti brevi in cui antichi miti di differenti culture vengono rivisitati da famosi autori contemporanei). Di questa serie avevo recentemente potuto apprezzare Il canto di Penelope: il mito del ritorno di Odisseo di Margaret Atwood e pensavo che anche il racconto di Grossman fosse qualcosa di simile. Tra l'altro, a fuorviarmi ha contribuito anche il f ...more
Lee Harmon
Dec 26, 2011 Lee Harmon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never liked Samson. I've said before that if the two of us meet someday in heaven, there will probably be a personality clash to end all clashes. I'm hoping that my new heavenly body won't be quite so easy to beat up.

Then I read David Grossman's little book. David carries us deep into the mind--nay, the very heart--of this ancient hero, to uncover what makes him tick. Sampson has been transformed from a turbulent, macho man into a needy, troubled misfit. A muscle-bound one, no less, which make
Dec 23, 2009 Sydney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A blurb on the cover says, "Original and very clever." Very clever? I can't imagine calling this beautiful, courageous, insightful book "clever." Grossman's capacity to see into the human heart in all its complexity and moreover see how this manifests in the world of men, matter, and events is far more than a show of cleverness.

Grossman sticks to the text. He doesn't want to veer off into fantasy. At the same time, he questions everything from every angle, never letting an issue rest until he h
"What might Samson’s life have looked like later on if she had been able to look straight into him, to see him as he really was? To fathom what has befallen this foreigner even before he was born: a state of eternal non-belonging. To see a man who tears a lion apart with his bare hands and then melts before the sheer poetry of the honey in its carcass."

Like many reviewers of this book, I originally read Lion's Honey because I was completely blown away by Margaret Atwood's Penelopiad. Also like o
Instead of retelling the story from a new angle, like the rest of the books from the series, this is just a critical analysis of the original story, step by step, which was ok, but not that interesting.
Dale Rosenberg
Jul 05, 2014 Dale Rosenberg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Dale by: Amy Loewenthal
This wasn't at all what I expected, but I quite enjoyed it. It's billed as a "retelling" of the story of the biblical hero Samson, whose story is told in the book of Judges. So I was expecting an historico-biblical novel that used the story in Judges as a jumping off point to create fully realized characters and scenes.

Instead, it's more of an extended commentary on the chapters of Judges that involve Samson. Grossman tells the reader what the text says, and then says when he discerns from that
Gave me a whole new perspective on Samson. He was truly a tragic figure. Could have come right out of Greek mythology instead of the Bible.

I was surprised that this book is listed as fiction, as it reads like an academic exploration of Samson, rather than a telling of his story.
Oct 09, 2014 Caitlin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: myth
I have been trying to make my way through the Canongate Myth series - so naturally I picked this up with the same expectations I've so far had with other books in the series. These are books which explore popular myths with the hindsight of modern day understanding.

So 'Lion's Honey' is a little different to the other Canongate Myth books I've read in that while they were modern "retellings" this was a more academic analysis of the myth. At times it was a little dense (despite its short length) a
Dec 04, 2011 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general-fiction
I was a little surprised as to what comprised this book, as I expected to find a fictional retelling after the reproduction of Judges 13-16 of the King James Bible. Instead, what follows is a detailed commentary that examines and dissects the Biblical account, using even the original language to understand the full meaning of the text, with all of its nuances and allusions. As many times that I have studied the story of Samson in church growing up, there is apparently quite a bit that I never kn ...more
Andrew Paxman
Dec 21, 2009 Andrew Paxman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Samson on the analyst’s couch

Instead of offering biblical exegesis, Lion’s Honey is a literary and psychoanalytical reading of the Samson story, as told in The Book of Judges. An Israeli novelist, Grossman starts with the original text and proceeds in 150 pages to interpret Samson as an uncommonly lonely figure. Samson is chosen – as an angel informs his mother – to help liberate Israel from the Philistines, but he seems to spend his life as often acting on impulse as serving God. Desire for fe
Lisa Cole
Jul 17, 2013 Lisa Cole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Today, I read another book in the popular Myths series, David Grossman's Lion's Honey. The book is not really a narrative, in my mind. Publisher's Weekly even uses the verb "revisit" as opposed to "retell" when revealing what approach Grossman took with the myth. Though not really a "bad" thing in the least, I felt as though I was reading an essay or a very well-written dissertation while reading the book. Despite lacking the narrative element that I enjoy in the books I read, Grossman does an e ...more
Riina Ojanen
Leijonahunaja käy läpi Raamatun Simson-hahmon tarinan. Simsonhan oli se hurja muskelimies, jonka voima piili pitkissä kutreissa. Grossmanin kirja Simsonista on ennemminkin tulkitseva essee alkuperäisestä myytistä kuin kertomus tai uudelleentulkinta. Canongaten Myytti-sarjaan kirja kyllä sopii, mutta en odottanut löytäväni tätä lähikirjaston fiktiohyllystä.

Grossman tulkitsee Simsonia melko suppean kertomuksen pohjalta. (Alkuperäinen kertomus löytyy kirjan alusta.) Hän yrittää löytää syitä tapahtu
Kirsty Cabot
I didn't finish this book, I got to around three quarters of the way through. After reading the Penelopiad I was looking forward to reading more of the Canongate Myths. However I really didn't enjoy this book very much. Although I like the myth of Samson... I felt that all this book did was provide questions to ask yourself when considering the myth. I believe it is good to ask questions of myths, but the level of literary criticism provided in this book I felt at some points was irrelevant and ...more
Karen Michele
Dec 16, 2013 Karen Michele rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been reading through the Canongate Myth Series, and enjoying the modern day retellings of familiar myths. David Grossman's Lion's Honey is more an essay and analysis of the Samson story and although it was fascinating and well written, this was disappointing. It brought back to me the confusions trying to explain to elementary age students why they would find their favorite fairy tales and myths in the non-fiction section of the library. They struggle with the concept that something that ...more
May 13, 2009 Margaret rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research
This was more of a discussion of the myth, rather than a retelling or re-imagining like the other titles I have read from this series. Probably due more than anything to my predisposition toward 'fiction' over 'non-fiction,' I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had hewed to the same creative impulse as the other Canongate Myths books. Grossman's work is admittedly highly speculative and uses a lot of psychoanalytic theory/logic, of which I am generally fairly dubious when it comes to liter ...more
Tom Dale
May 22, 2012 Tom Dale rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: myths
I have no time for the biblical Samson, who seemed like a thug of the first order, a feeling only reconfirmed by re-reading the passage from Judges included at the start of the book.

And then the book proper begins and it's .. an essay, which is not what I was expecting. And it's a very detailed one at that - almost a line by line analysis, pulling in material from other sources, psychoanalysis - and initially it seems quite a stretch, rather too much from too little.

But by the end, and this wa
Disappointing... not in content, but in style. As a member of the Canongate Myths' series I was expecting a re-telling/re-imagining of Samson. Grossman instead proceeds to intimately analyze the text. This is, I am sure, great though speculative. However, in keeping with the rest of the series, I would have preferred that he present his analysis in a different format. His insights are intriguing and would have made an excellent tale, instead I felt I was listening to someone (albeit a very learn ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Rod rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderfully readable, perceptive and profound. Being a big fan (is that the proper terminology) of Biblical studies, this is exactly the kind of book that--if I ever stopped reading long enough and mustered the requisite ambition and discipline--I would like to write. Makes me want to read more in the Canongate Myths series, though I don't expect any to top this. Makes me want to read more Grossman, too.
If you thought Samson was simply an all-too-gullible strongman for God, let Grossman open up
Oct 26, 2013 Elisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Dit boek is geen roman of novelle, maar eerder een bijbelexegese. Grossman neemt het gekende verhaal van Samson en Delilah, en gaat dat dan bijna woord voor woord analyseren. Het is best boeiend te zien hoe hij elke daad, elke handeling weet te motiveren en achter het letterlijke verhaal een stroom van gevoelens en intenties ziet. Toch moet ik bekennen dat ik het niet tot het einde toe heb volgehouden. Een stukje met een keer, zoals in een wekelijkse homilie, daar leent het boek zich perfect toe ...more
Nov 06, 2015 Gemma rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Felt more like a critical essay rather than a retelling. I was disappointed compared to other titles in the myth series.
Feb 07, 2013 Wouter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book(let) fits in a series in which famous authors engage creatively with myths. Grossman chose the famous biblical Samson myth. Grossman proffers interesting perspectives from Pyschology and his keen eye as a narrator himself lets him interact creatively with the original story. Also, the present day context of Israel and the conflict with the Palestinians pops up now and then.
However, rather than a contemporary retelling of the story, this little book is something between a commentary an
May 16, 2015 Melanti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, cannongate, 2015
This is sort of a cross between a novel and a lit crit analysis of the biblical Samson myth.

Grossman analyzes the chapters line by line (and sometimes word by word) and manages to tease out enough meaning and speculate about missing scenes and emotions involved that it feels fully fleshed out instead of just the rough outline presented in the original text.

I especially enjoyed the speculation on Samson's free will, since that's always a thorny issue with biblical stories.
Dec 01, 2012 da-wildchildz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let my soul die with the Philistines.

Last line from Lion’s Honey. Another from the Canongate Myths series. As with The Penelopiad, Lion’s Honey offered a different perspective to a myth, in this case a Biblical story. Grossman applies the psychologist’s viewpoint to Samson’s tale, adding another dimension (or two, maybe even three) to his character. It proved to be an interesting read but may just leave you questioning everything.
Apr 20, 2013 Laurent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In this book Grossman offers a humane interpretation of the story of Samson and Delila.
Samson, a tragic man predefined before his birth in the role of a hero by god, is portrayed as a violent but also poetic hero, who hides his basic need for being loved, accepted and understood as the fragile person he is behind a heroic facade and eventually succumbs lashing out against those who abused the sincerity of his need.
Frederic Murray
Jun 13, 2009 Frederic Murray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
That's right, a novel about the Big Guy: Long Hair, Femme Fatale Girlfriend, Jawbone & War, Blind Justice...all the shit from THE BOOK...only filtered through the lens of a contemporary Israeli Writer.

Much better than the MGM films of yesteryore ( Ridley Scott ought to option this tale), in Grossman's narrative you really understand the Big Lug's Lust.

It ain't easy being this Novel: NOW.
Jan 03, 2008 sisterimapoet rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction2007
In giving this book only one star I am ranking my reaction to it, rather than the quality of the book itself. I like the Canongate myths to be re-workings, or re-interpretations of existing myths. I like an aspect of imagination and storytelling involved, as that resonates with what myths are to me. This felt more like an academic analysis of the Samson story, and as such I wasnt that interested.
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Leading Israeli novelist David Grossman (b. 1954, Jerusalem) studied philosophy and drama at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and later worked as an editor and broadcaster at Israel Radio. Grossman has written seven novels, a play, a number of short stories and novellas, and a number of books for children and youth. He has also published several books of non-fiction, including int
More about David Grossman...

Other Books in the Series

Canongate Myth Series (1 - 10 of 18 books)
  • A Short History of Myth
  • The Penelopiad
  • Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles
  • The Helmet of Horror: The Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur
  • Dream Angus: The Celtic God of Dreams
  • Anna In w grobowcach świata
  • Girl Meets Boy
  • Binu and the Great Wall
  • Where Three Roads Meet: The Myth of Oedipus
  • Baba Yaga Laid an Egg

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