Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy

I was surprised and thrilled when I received an e-mail from Eva Etzioni-Halevy asking if I would read and review her book, The Triumph of Deborah. I had seen her book reviewed by several other bloggers and I was already interested in reading it, as I enjoy both historical fiction as well as reading about Biblical characters and time periods.

Deborah is a leader and judge of the Israelites, which is unusual as women were very rarely in any position of authority. She knows the Israelite army must push back the Canaanites, who are trying to overtake the Israelite land, but she hates to send her people into battle. She convinces Barak, a young warrior, to lead the battle, even though others advise her to follow older and more experienced soldiers' plans. Deborah and her husband have disagreements over this issue, and they can't seem to find a compromise.

Barak is successful in battle and after defeating the Canaanites, he brings back the Canaanite women and children to his city. He has his eye set on Asherah, a Canaanite princess, and takes her to his home to be his wife. She has no desire to be the wife of her enemy, and looks for ways to escape. Nogah, whose father was the Canaanite king, and whose mother was an Israelite captive in Canaan, decides to work in Barak's house as a servant. She catches Barak's eye as well, even though she is not as beautiful as Asherah.

The Triumph of Deborah weaves together the lives of Deborah and Barak and shows the struggles they have in their respective positions of power, and how this affects their personal relationships as well. Including much Biblical history, Etzioni-Halevy also includes many passages from the Bible about the laws for the Israelite people. Though the passage in the book of Judges that tells about the real judge Deborah, is relatively short (Judges chapters 4 and 5), Etzioni-Halevy drew from other books in the Old Testament to paint a realistic picture of what life would be like for Israelites in that time.

I especially found this to be an interesting book to read, as one of my goals for the year 2009 is to read through the Bible. As I was reading this book, I was simultaneously reading the Old Testament, and I frequently came across the passages in the Bible that were included in the book. (I would have appreciated it if these passages in the book were given footnotes to the verses in the Bible, for easy reference.) While the basics of The Triumph of Deborah are true to the Biblical account, much of the book is fictionalized. I greatly enjoyed the fictional character Nogah, and I almost feel that she is a stronger female character than Deborah. I was disappointed that the sexual relationships were so dominant. What was described as love between the characters seemed more like lust, and this dampened my enjoyment of the book overall. However, the book is engaging and well-researched, and reading it made me interested in doing some research of my own on the life of Deborah, as well as this time period. I really appreciate Mrs. Etzioni-Halevy sending the book, and I have added her other two books, The Song of Hannah and The Garden of Ruth to my "to be read" list.

Number of pages: 358
Date Completed: February 2009


Dar said...

I'm glad you liked this book Laura. I really enjoyed it. I've picked up her other two novels but haven't had a chance to read them yet. My favorite character was Nogah, she came from harsh beginnings and yet never quit.

Trish said...

Oh Laura--I miss reading your reviews. You have written this one so beautifully and it really makes me want to pick up the book. Once upon a time I knew the Biblical stories fairly well, but it seems like I am forgetting more and more except for the bigger stories. Seems like I remember The Red Tent having a lot of "sexual relationships" as well. I noticed a big "???" under currently reading--can't wait to hear tomorrow what you've decided on!

Eva Etzioni-Halevy said...

Dear Laura,

Thank you for your incisive and supportive review of my novel.

I was delighted that you actually knew which passages were taken from the Bible.

As for the sensual scenes, since you are well versed in the Bible you must surely know that in some parts it is quite racy. Look for instance at the SONG OF SONGS. if you contemplate some of the verses in depth and think of what they really mean they will make you blush. So I believe that in this too my novel is faithful to the spirit of the Bible.

Thank you again, and thank you, too, dear commentators.

Eva Etzioni-Halevy

Anna said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed this one. It's in my pile for this month. Great review!

Diary of an Eccentric