Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Gilded Chamber: another female biblical story, reimagined

The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen EstherThe Gilded Chamber: A Novel about Queen Esther, by Rebecca Kohn

3 out of 5 stars

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 that women led in this era.

One thing I had a hard time swallowing was Esther's undying devotion to Mordechai, and after she realized that King Xerxes was a weak tyrant, she still had the hots for him. Being a woman who has never been attracted to bad boys, I found this to be implausible.

The women (in particular, Esther) were much more vividly described than the men, many of whom were one dimensional. This might reflect the severe division between men and women, and the lack of personal connection they had. (Everyone in the kingdom was forbidden to approach the king without being called, including his wife.)

Some of the descriptions of Esther's clothing got to be a bit tiresome, and the writing seemed melodramatic at times. However, I found it to be another interesting story about another woman in the bible (and a Jewish hero).

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