Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther
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Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  1,703 ratings  ·  154 reviews
In the Bestselling tradition of The Red Tent, a dazzling novel of the extraordinary biblical heroine who ascended to the position of queen and sacrificed love in exchange for the lives of her people.

The story of Esther-- whose mesmerizing beauty was matched only by her clear-eyed wisdom-- has inspired women for centuries. Now her suspenseful tale comes to life through th...more
Hardcover, 361 pages
Published May 1st 2004 by Rugged Land
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“I carried my grace and kindness before the king. He did not know my name, my people, or my descent. He did not care. Desire seized his senses and roused him from the lethargy and indifference. He tasted life again as his old self, the man he was before the loss of Vashti and the defeat in Greece. For this King Xerxes loved me more than all the other women.”

What a gem of a book! I picked this a couple of years of ago at a discount booksellers on a clearance rack. The premise caught my eye: a bo...more
Jamie J
This behind-the-scenes glimpse of an emancipated royal concubine is one undergirded in Orientalist romanticism. It completely reifies the 2-300 yr old Western stereotype of "exotic" harem behavior. I nearly threw-up when the author described homosexual activity within the harem, not because I didn't enjoy the visuals, but because it was SO PREDICTABLE!

I would hesitate to compare "The Guilded Chamber" to "The Red Tent" just because the main character is Jewish woman and the story is told from a...more
Here's the deal: very minor problems can sour a novel, and this book is filled with minor problems; and unfortunately, some major ones as well. One problem is the author doesn't know how she feels about her characters. It's as though she's developed them haphazardly, with no thought for consistency or cohesion. The relationships between characters are not believable. The behaviors of the characters are not believable. A major problem is that the plot disappears at one point, never really to resu...more
I was really drawn into this book right away. I didn't know anything about Esther, so I can't really comment on the historical/Biblical accuracy of the story. The plot moves along very quickly in the beginning, with Esther (then called Hadassah) being orphaned in Babylon and going to live with her cousin/husband-to-be Mordechai in Persia. Mordechai, however, is now known as Marduka the Babylonian, an adviser to King Xerxes I.

Before Hadassah can sort out whether or not her cousin still intends t...more
Zohar -
The story is a familiar one, Hadassah, a Jewish orphan, is being brought to the court of King Xerxes as a possible queen. Hiding her Jewish origins she changes her name to Esther, becomes queen and saves the Jews from certain death (now...let's eat).

The book itself is very inventive, I must give the author credit and I really enjoyed the first part of the book. However, for me the book took a wrong turn by not sticking with the biblical timeline and taking too many liberties with the "fiction"...more
The Gilded Chamber is pretty much a verbatim of The Book of Esther in the Old Testament. I pulled out my Bible, read Book of Esther and the author, Rebecca Kohn, used just about all of the text and then wove a tale to fill in the blanks to make her story - albeit something like a soft porn.

So, for those of you who do not know The Book of Esther, err..rather The Gildedd Chamber, here is the story:

When King Xerxes commands his wife to display herself infront of his men in nothing but a turban, she...more
The story of Esther is told as if we could see her daily worries, the trials she faced in Xerxes royal sphere...but this removed all the inspiration from the tale. She wasn't especially strong, faithful, beautiful, perhaps she was described as humble as in the Bible. It was depressing and sad. A little too much realism for me while still being unrealistic...if that makes sense.
Kris Irvin
I read this book in early 2008, after buying it for a dollar from Borders. I remember being drawn into it at first, but couldn't believe how graphic (sexual) it was. The word that comes to mind is smut. Total smut. Normally after I finish a book I own and didn't like, I donate it. This one, I threw away. It wasn't even good enough to recycle.

I really liked her other books, and I needed something light and not too filling so I got this.

It was meh.

It was fine.

Esther was kind of cool, but omigod one-dimensional. The king kinda creepy. At times, it was a bit...unnecessarily salacious, which is not what you expect from a story based on a chapter from the Bible. It was a bit uncomfy for me..."uh, do the prophets know you're writing I be here? Would you like me to leave."

And I think I can safely say I'm not the prurient...more
I loved this book! I couldn't put it down! A fascinating fictional-based-on-fact account of Esther from the bible. It's an awesome description of what life may have been like in ancient Persia, in a harem, in a palance, and outside in the real world. I highly recommend it!
Emma Evans
This is the second book by Rebecca Kohn I have read and it did not fail to impress me as much as the first. Although i was familiar with the biblical story of Esther this book bought the story to life and i loved the evocative descriptions of the magnificent palace, the exotic fragrant gardens and the extensive beauty regimes of life in the Harem. The book was well paced and you did feel a sense of fear when you realized how precarious her position was and what the outcome could have been, I don...more
Ella Wang
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I had a lot of flying time last weekend, so this was a $1 novel that I picked up, intending to discard at my destination.
I didn't discard The Gilded Chamber, but actually carried it back. I enjoy historical fiction -- history leaves me asleep if I don't have a character(s) to experience life through.
Queen Esther once again showed how women have spent much of humankind's time on earth valued only for their beauty and sexuality. It is chilling how a girl really, selected for her virginity and beau...more
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Feb 25, 2011 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No One
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
It may be that with two stars I'm being too generous, but then having tried this novel of Queen Esther after the eye-bleedingly awful The Other Boleyn Girl, this didn't seem so wretched in comparison. Which doesn't mean it's good, and it didn't hold my interest and only its appearance on a historical fiction recommendation list caused me to give it over 50 pages.

I wasn't taken with the style at all. For one, this is first person, yet early on she's telling us of scenes in the palace with Xerxes...more
May 21, 2009 Claire rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
Honestly? I found the Wikipedia entry on Esther to be more interesting.

This book starts out well - Kohn uses lots of foreshadowing to make the reader believe that something totally awesome is going to happen eventually, creating enough impatient goodwill to carry you through to the end of the book. Hadassah/Esther's time in the harem is, one hopes, prelude to an amazing feat of bravery and heroism in which she casts away her disguise and come to the rescue of her people.

Instead, the second half...more

I wouldn't have picked this up so soon after rereading The Red Tent, but my 8-year-old son was in a play about Queen Esther this week and I had a business trip, so Queen Esther it was.

Kohn's writing was not nearly as strong as Anita Diamant's, but I did have some similar issues about perspective. The novel was told in the first person, but Esther seemed to be omnipresent. It was interesting and disturbing to read about harem life and the subjugated roles t...more
Ana Mardoll
The Gilded Chamber / 0-14-303533-9

I cannot help but echo the reviewers who compared this to Falconer's "The Sultan's Harem". The similarities are there - a young woman plucked out of her happy, familiar life in order to sexually service a demanding despot, whilst simultaneously fighting tooth-and-nail against the other "fortunate" girls for a favored position in this unfavorable environment. But here is where Falconer shines and Kohn fades: the reaction of the girl in question to her circumstanc...more
Chelsi Johnston
A very sad, and at times stomach-churning and graphic tale of Queen Ester, this book was so depressing. I like to think that somehow, God offered His grace to Ester for her faithfulness, maybe offering her some brief times of happiness. There were none in this book.
There were also so many unnecessary details of this book that I found disturbing. Ester saw her father's brains smashed on the road. She was frequently molested by a Eunuch (which was completely illogical to me.) A harem girl was mol...more
I don't know how historically correct this fictional story is about how a queen (who hid her Jewish background from the Persian king she was married to) saved the Jewish people from annilihation from Xerxes in Persia, as I looked up some of the stories one of the character tells in Herodotus' Histories. The story of the shawl has to do with his son, Artaxerxes, and the name of the wife is different. All stories have been massaged over the ages to fit the religion of the moment, so one could thin...more
Whether or not you are interested in Bibilical history, this is a book sure to please. Kohn is quoted as saying, "I had been reading a work of nonfiction on the political ramifications of the Book of Esther and began to wonder if Esther's role was perhaps more complex than I realized." Kohn then began a journey or research that culminated in this, her first novel.
The book mixes fact with plausible fiction as it describes a young orphan's life in early Persia, describing historical accounts thro...more
A fun dramatization of real events--the story of Queen Esther of the Bible, who had to hide her identity as a Jew when selected to be a harem girl for King Xerxes of Babylon. She then rose through the ranks to become his wife, eventually becoming able to influence his political moves and prevent the exile of her fellow Jews from Babylon. It created many mixed emotions in our book feminists, we were outraged by the enslavement of women for sexual purposes, yada yada; but my, it made bei...more
Bekki McClish
I read the biblical book of Esther prior to reading this book. I'm a bit confused as to why this book is in the bible. I can only imagine that it's there because a King set forth the cannons and he wanted this in there to show the power of a King.

I'm curious to see this author's take on Esther's role.

Well, she did a very good job of sticking to the biblical story.

This book was recommened for people who enjoyed the Red Tent. I strongly disagree with that.

While this book was an easy read - I do...more
The fictional account of Queen Esther and her part in saving the Jews from slaughter through her close relationship with the king. Again, the most startling part of the novel, for me, is the account of the harem/concubine (not sure I know the difference) and their way of being treated. Everyone is kept pretty well drugged up and treated like silver, being polished, prepared and staged for one sole purpose.

Not sure why I actually liked the book. It seems more and more these days that books reson...more
Even though, like all Jews, I'm familiar with the story of Queen Esther -- who we honor every Purim -- I didn't know all of her tale, though I thought I did. And certainly not the way Rebecca Kohn imagines it in this retelling. She allows us to imagine what life could have been like in the days of Haman, Mordechai and Xerxes. Let's just say that the focus on Esther or Hadassah's accomplishments shouldn't be all this woman is remembered for; she deserves credit for all that she endured.

ETA: When...more
Stopped reading partway through-- I was hoping this would be like The Red Tent, which I liked a lot, but it just wasn't as interesting. Maybe would have finished it if I wasn't in the middle of so many other books at the same time.
This is the story of the historical Queen Esther, the woman who acted to save the Jewish people from slaughter. I am not as familiar with this time in history, so it was an interesting read.

The first part was really, really good. It was a page-turner as the young Jewish girl loses her parents, moves, and then is taken into the king's harem.

I felt like the second part of the story - as Queen Esther - fell flat. It was a superficial discussion of events that happened. I felt like Kohn wanted to k...more
Jul 16, 2008 Vicky rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical fiction fans
Compared to The Red Tent, The Gilded Chamber fell short. I know these are two different authors with different writing styles, but they're both historical fiction pieces. The writing of this novel felt redundant in parts, the characters didn't all seem credible, and at times, I felt like I was reading a cheesy romance. There were also several editorial errors that I found irritating.

On the plus side, the history seemed well-researched, and getting to know who Esther was, was all very intriguing....more
Rebecca Kohn’s The Gilded Chamber was a wonderful read. It’s a historical fiction novel based on the rule of King Xerxes of Persia. It centers on the Queen, Esther, as she grows up, enters the palace, and secures a place in the royal court.

I found the writing to be really good, really pulling me in and making me care about the characters and what happened to them. It was also pretty cool for me since I studied this area and this period of time during my Alexander the Great class last semester.

I enjoyed this story. As long as one remembers it is fiction, then it's a nice period piece. I thought the writer made some interesting choices - some of the fictional brutality in the book is quite descriptive while other brutal factual events are greatly minimized. The first part of the book was entirely fictional, some of the later scenes were spot on with the recorded events - other descriptions are changed from recorded history and yet others entirely whitewashed. Such happens when history...more
Adele Goetz
Mar 20, 2008 Adele Goetz rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kir
This was an interesting read about Queen Esther, a biblical character who has always intrigued me. (I may be a heathen, but I do enjoy the Bible from a historical perspective, which Kir already knows as we both enthusiastically watch The Naked Archaelogist and Mysteries of the Bible.)Anyway, I had read a young adult book about Esther when I was in middle school, so I was intrigued to read this version of her story, which was a decidedly less G-rated interpretation. The book seems well-researched...more
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