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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Triumph of Deborah

The Triumph of Deborah
by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
355 pages

Before I begin, I'd like to apologize to the author for taking so long to review her book. I really wanted to read it but life conspired to prevent me. First it was other reviews that I'd committed to, then it was the fact that I lost the book not once but twice (how embarrassing!). So Eva, I'm sorry for not getting this review completed sooner - the book was very enjoyable.

The Official Summary

"The richly imagined tale of Deborah, the courageous Biblical warrior who saved her people from certain destruction. ~~~~ In ancient Israel, war is looming. Deborah, a highly respected leader, has coerced the warrior Barak into launching a strike against the neighboring Canaanites. Against all odds he succeeds, returning triumphantly with Asherah and Nogah, daughters of the Canaanite King, as his prisoners. But military victory is only the beginning of the turmoil, as a complex love triangle develops between Barak and the two princesses. ~~~~ Deborah, recently cast off by her husband, develops a surprising affinity for Barak. Yet she struggles to rebuild her existence on her own terms, while also groping her way toward the greatest triumph of her life. ~~~~ Filled with brilliantly vivid historical detail, The Triumph of Deborah is the absorbing and riveting tale of one of the most beloved figures in the Old Testament, and a tribute to feminine strength and independence."

My Thoughts

I'm a bit torn on this book. On the one hand, I really enjoyed it but on the other hand, there were things that I didn't like so much.
  • The Pros: This is a fascinating story. The Biblical story of Deborah (more details on that below) is a very interesting one to begin with, and the author of this book definitely captures the drama inherent in it. ~ The characters are well written and mostly believable. ~ The author does a great job of capturing the intense emotions between men and women- love, lust, jealousy, hurt, and so on. ~ I always wanted to keep reading, to find out what happened next. ~ I enjoy books that make me look at familiar characters from the Bible in a new way (as in THE RED TENT - a great book!). ~ So on the whole, this was a good book.
  • The Cons: Although I enjoyed the sometimes flowery language used by the author, I think she used a few too many similes; it is OK to just say "it is what it is" ... you don't always have to say "it is like a ...." ~ The male/female relationships in the book were a bit troubling to me. They were very well written, as I said above, but there was so much inequality in one particular relationship and that really bothered me. That is not the fault of the author though, as I think she represented what relationships were truly like at the time - but it really did bug me. ~ There was almost constant sex in this book. Not in detail or in a crude way, but one particular guy was having sex just about every other page (he "lay down with" his maid, or "he came to" his wife, etc.) and it got to be a bit much for me.

The Historical Background

This book is based on the Biblical Old Testament story of Deborah. The story starts in the book of Judges, chapter 4, verse 4, and continues until chapter 5, verse 31. Many of the characters in the book appear in the Bible (Deborah, Barak, Deborah's husband Lapidoth, and the Canaanites King Jabin and the the warrior Sisra) but very little is told about their personalities or actions.

The author included a note at the end describing some of the liberties she took with the female characters. She explains the background of some of her choices but makes little mention of the
major "enhancements" she made to the story.

My Final Thoughts

As with other books like this, you can't take the story as a representation of fact. Instead I like to think of these kinds of books as color added to a black and white photo; they may not be the exact colors of the original item, but their addition enhances your understanding of the real thing. In this case, I think the story strayed rather far from the original Biblical version, sort of like adding neon colors to a black and white photo of a tree; it's not a bad thing but it can be misleading. I prefer to think of this as a stand-alone story rather than an interpretation of a Biblical story - I can enjoy it for what it is much more that way.

Your Thoughts?

What do you think? Is this something you'd like to read? Do you like reading re-interpretations of older stories? of Bible stories? If you've read it, do you agree with my comments?

I'd love to post links to other reviews here so please include them in your comments.


Julie P. said...

Great review! I read it last year and enjoyed it. Here's the link:

BTW, Just booked our trip to Disney!!! Thanks for your advice!

Jenny Girl said...

Don't feel bad. I also received a copy and got side tracked. I should have it started by Monday. Your review is very good, and covers pertinent points. More than I ever think to cover.
I guess I should read the Bible story too? I don't remember Deborah's story, but usually when I read a book based on a real event or person, I research the truth afterwards.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Julie - Thanks, I added your review. And I'm so excited for you about Disney!

Jenny Girl - The Bible story is pretty short and should only take a few minutes to read through, so definitely take the time to do it.

Anna said...

Great review! I love how you present the pros and cons. I really enjoyed this book and reviewed it here.

Diary of an Eccentric

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Anna - I added your review in. :)

Anna said...


Diary of an Eccentric

bermudaonion said...

I don't think this is the book for me, but I did enjoy your review.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this book.
Surprisingly I never noticed the similes.

I do agree with you about the sex part but it did not bother me. As far as I saw it was a part of that character. It could be surprising for those who wouldn't expect it.

Eva Etzioni-Halevy said...

Dear Heather,

Thanks for taking the time to read my book and for your great review.

Dear Commentators,

I am thrilled that so many of you stopped by to comment about the review and the book.

Eva Etzioni-Halevy

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

bermudaonion - ah well, I can't win 'em all! :)

violetcrush - You're right, it DID fit with his character, but it got irritating after a while - not in a gratuitous way, but more like I wanted to smack him, you know?

Eva - Thanks for stopping by and of course, for sending me your book!

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