With all due respect to the esteemed Mordicai Gerstein, this is something I’m putting in the Epic Fail pile.
Why, why, why, why does the poster child f...more With all due respect to the esteemed Mordicai Gerstein, this is something I’m putting in the Epic Fail pile.
Why, why, why, why does the poster child for Anti-Semitic Villain look like he himself stepped out of the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion ? The red beard, the long nose, the evil chuckles and scheming and gleeful hand rubbing – it all looks disturbing like the stereotypical Evil Jew that used to pop up in fiction so often until about circa 1948.
And then there is the plot. I appreciate that Gerstein is trying to take a very weighty, complex story and distill it down to a picture book level, but he insists on keeping ALL of the plot points, but without ANY of the context, which is really hard to get your head around – it’s like walking into a British comedy at the beginning of Act II and trying to figure out why the bishop is holding a duck, the duke is hiding in a trunk, the carriage horses have been painted pink, and the scullery maid is wearing the duchess’s ball gown.
So we hit every point in the story including all the odd bits about the feasts and scepters and lots and poles and poisons without any of the social / political / historical / religious context that explains a few things.
I’m not asking for a graduate thesis on the Persian Empire – but a picture book can still convey quite a lot of history with just a few well written sentences that explain a few key bits of background. That can make all the difference between a solid story and a few loosely strung together events. (less)
Does anyone else compare a good book with something good to eat?
For me, a book can have a taste to it. It can be sweet or sour, savory or bitter, as h...moreDoes anyone else compare a good book with something good to eat?
For me, a book can have a taste to it. It can be sweet or sour, savory or bitter, as heavy as a seven course meal or insubstantial as cotton candy. This book was light with plenty of romance and exotically, (but safely), foreign, but I wouldn’t give it the same candy box and cocktail feeling I assign to a romance novel, and yet, despite the danger the characters are in, it isn’t the vitamin rich fruit, vegetables and protein balanced meal of important literature or serious non fiction. I simply enjoyed this book, loving it so much I half wanted to cram the pages in my mouth to savor it.
This version of Esther is like a really good old school re-telling of Beauty and the Beast or The Arabian Nights – the ending a forgone conclusion, the twists and turns of the plot known ahead of time, the characters well known – but the magic of these retellings is in the setting, and Norah Lofts lavishes attention on her setting here.
Lofts excels in letting the reader know the color of every drop of wine poured, the beauty of the jewels adorning every forehead, the smell of the dust and dirt in the back alleys, the taste of the banquets of exotic food, the feel of every piece of fabric, from the rags to the silks, and sound of horses galloping across a desert plain, bearing messages of life and death importance.
And the characters? Stock characters brought to life – not to full three dimensional, but slightly better than cardboard. We see into the hearts of Esther, of Ahasuerus, of Haman, and even Vashti, and we see into the cool, logical mind of Mordecai - the man is an absolute Vulcan with his cold attachment to pure logic. It’s an important trait to have in a crisis, so I’m not complaining, mind you, cause he’s cool headedness saves the day, buuuuuuut it doesn’t exactly make you emphasize with him as he sells out people left and right “for the greater good.” Groan.
Lofts delights in showing off the Persian court, wrapping up the who quasi-historical event in the language of fairy tales. So, happy endings for everyone, except the villain, and they all lived happily ever after, (except Hamy) (less)
The story is split into two parts, becoming almost two novellas combined into one binding.
Part I is narrated by a Hebrew girl named Almah who longs fo...moreThe story is split into two parts, becoming almost two novellas combined into one binding.
Part I is narrated by a Hebrew girl named Almah who longs for a life different from what her traditions dictates. She is not part of the original story, but is weaved in perfectly here.
Part II is told by a fifteen year Moses, a teenager caught between worlds, feeling uneasy in both, and with no idea what to do next.
The story has a lot of the religion stripped out of it. Divinity does not make an appearance, although every single character weighs with their thoughts on what is Right. The story becomes more a study of different socio-economic-ethnic classes as well as human psychology. There are no black and white heroes and villains here - everyone falls more or less towards the center of the moral scale.
The only thing I disliked was Miriam gets pushed to the sidelines with only about 3 sentences total - she would have made a great "part III" (less)
I've seen better written pieces of fanfiction written by 13 year old squeeing fangirls on the Twilight section of fanfiction.net, gushing about how mu...moreI've seen better written pieces of fanfiction written by 13 year old squeeing fangirls on the Twilight section of fanfiction.net, gushing about how murderers aren't evil when they’re, like, sooooo hawt.
I like the title - it suggests something has gone wrong in the land of milk and honey.
Poor Mary Magdalene.
For centuries, she’s been the punch line of...more I like the title - it suggests something has gone wrong in the land of milk and honey.
Poor Mary Magdalene.
For centuries, she’s been the punch line of dirty jokes, a name that brings a knowing smirk to the amateur theologian lips, or a rude wink from the Catholic artist.
Here, Gormley examines a possible background to the Magdalene before all myths and legends and 6th century versions of bathroom stall ‘for a good time’ graffiti started.
We meet the very human Miriam as a young girl, an ordinary middle class girl of the place and time, whose family is in the sardine packing business, of all things, a profession that, at least I felt, manages to make the character seem that much more down to earth.
Young Miriam definitely has a different way of looking at the world. Part of it is an intelligent person trapped in a pre-modern world, part of it is I-am-a-teenager-and-no-understands-my-angst, and the other part is up to the reader; either she talked with angels and demons (Brown pun intended), or she was schizophrenic and in desperate need of thorazine.
The book reminded me a lot of I Never Promised You a Rose Garden I thought Miriam had a mental disorder the whole time I was reading and it wasn’t until after I finished did it ever occur to me that the people she was talking to in her head might have been real.
Either way, Gormley did her homework on the multiple religions of the time period. I thought it was hilarious that the woman peddling all the trappings of the counter cultures Da Vinci Code fans and neo-pagans get so excited about turns out to be a fraud. Which is probably where a lot of it could have come from – which actually might be where a lot of religions come from. And the fact that she gets to scoff “the devil made me do it” line was great.
Anyway, after either the demons or psychosis gets a hold of Miriam, her descent into madness is horrifying fast, a wild ride she jumps on, encouraging it because her visions are so much better than her crappy real life – very Walter Mitty, but with ancient gods. The crowning scene was great - a little girl playing dress up and not realizing she’s playing with a loaded gun. That scene would work best on film, especially if you went with the ‘she’s-crazy’ school of thought and used it to show a mental break in Technicolor with rock music.
Meanwhile, the story occasionally switches POV to the soon-to-be apostle Matthew, showing how he went from a tax collector to a saint. He’s a highly sympathetic character and you can see why he would jump feet first into the counter-culture movement this young rabbi Yeshua bar Yosef is starting.
The rabbi is human – there’s even scenes where he doesn’t know everything. No mention of divine fatherhood or chosen destiny. He laughs, he jokes, he dances! However, he does acknowledge to Miriam that he knows he has strong leadership qualities – he knows if so much as whistled he could call up an army in a day and be a new Caesar. But he’s not going to, because he gets it that power corrupts.
We meet the other disciples. All of the later myths-politics-dust-age-bias-etc is stripped away and we see a group of idealistic college kids sitting around talking about how to make the world a better place. As they wander around you half expect them to arrive at Woodstock. (Seriously, I want this to be a movie so I can buy the soundtrack. Who says you can’t have 20th century music in a 1st century story?)
Judas only gets one line, and its fairly ominous – but he seems to have the same problem as most of the others in the band – they want their leader to love them best, and here is where we see Miriam got her title of ‘apostle-to-the-apostles’ as she tried to get the group from fragmenting – an anti-Yoko. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist a Beatles joke). Yeshua calls Miriam his sister, and that perfectly describes their relationship – like everything else that gets tacked on in later centuries, the sex is very much stripped out. It was very much like Saint Francis and Saint Claire in 'Brother Sun, Sister Moon.'
The last section tries to end on a happy note, but its nothing but really heavy foreshadowing. Miriam is sane and happy to be embracing something she feels is bringing good to the world, but its so hard to read without wincing as she talks about the Passover dinner they’re planning... (less)
WARNING! This book contains sex - both consensual and non-consensual.
Imagine the first book of Genesis with Eve and Adam played by sixth graders. The...moreWARNING! This book contains sex - both consensual and non-consensual.
Imagine the first book of Genesis with Eve and Adam played by sixth graders. The girl is into math and science because she's too young to know how girls are "supposed" to act, while the boy just wants to play hackey sack.
Meanwhile, the serpent is played by Robert Oppenheimer (I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds) and God is played by Kenneth Bainbridge (Now we are all sons of bitches).
Yeah, it gets bad. Eve suffers the most, and when she's given the choice whether or not to start go forth and multiplying, I'm kinda amazed she went pro-life.
An excellent exploration of what might have happened in between the few lines given to Miriam in the Book of Exodus. Heavy emphasis on the description...moreAn excellent exploration of what might have happened in between the few lines given to Miriam in the Book of Exodus. Heavy emphasis on the description "Miriam the prophetess."(less)