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Marek Halter was born in Poland in 1936. His family escaped the Warsaw Ghetto and settled in France. He is the author of several internationally acclaimed bestselling novels, including The Book of Abraham. Halter's second and third novels about women of the Bible, Zipporah and Lilah, will be published in 2005 and 2006, respectively. He lives in Paris.
Adult/High School-Halter offers a retelling of the Old Testament story of Abraham and Sarah; the birth of their son, Isaac; and the creation of the Jewish people. Before Sarai can become Sarah, she must first be a teenager. The daughter of a lord of Ur, she is frightened by her first menstrual blood and runs away from an arranged marriage and meets a nomad boy named Abram. Even though they spend only one night together, she feels an intense connection with him, but she cannot imagine a future with someone so different from herself and returns to her father's house. Still frightened of becoming a wife and mother, she purchases herbs that leave her infertile and is dedicated as a Priestess of Ishtar. Years later, the two are reunited and marry. Readers will find the story compelling, especially Sarai's decision to run away from an arranged marriage. As a newly married wife who loves her husband but is infertile, her relationships with other women in the tribe and her subsequent jealousy are believable. This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed Anita Diamant's The Red Tent (St. Martin's, 1997) or who are interested in historical fiction from a feminist perspective.-Maureen L. Hartman, Minneapolis Public Library Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Yet another entry in the burgeoning subgenre of fictional portraits of biblical women (see, for example, Rebecca Kohn's retelling of the story of Queen Esther in The Gilded Chamber, Forecasts, Mar. 15), Halter's novel (the first in a trilogy) adheres to a by now familiar formula: frank sexual and emotional revelations presented against a backdrop of burnished interiors. Halter's Sarah is born Sarai, the daughter of one of the most powerful lords of Ur. At the age of 12, she is pledged in marriage to a man she has never met, and despite the finery of her bridal chamber ("Everything was new.... Linen rakutus as smooth as a baby's skin"), she flees in distress. Dragged back to her father's house, she doses herself with an herbal concoction that leaves her barren and is made a priestess of Ishtar, Ur's goddess of war. Six years later, an encounter with her childhood love, the handsome Abram, furnishes her with the chance she's been waiting for: she escapes with him and joins his nomadic tribe. Her contentment is short-lived, because Abram is called by God to leave his tribe and set out for a new land, whereupon the familiar (but freely adapted) Bible story unfolds. The misery Sarah feels at being barren, the indecent love her nephew Lot expresses for her, her encounter with Pharaoh and her quarrel with Hagar, the slave woman who gives Abram a child, shape the novel's second half. Halter isn't afraid to present headstrong Sarah as bitter in her old age, and his complex portrait of the biblical matriarch gives this solid if predictable novel a dash of freshness. (May 4) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The first entry in a new historical trilogy about the women of the Old Testament, this is making its American debut after being published to international acclaim in France last year. It joins a growing collection of novels about what Halter (The Book of Abraham) has called the "feminine Bible": the stories of the matriarchs, queens, and female prophets of Scripture. Sarah is the favorite daughter of a lord of Ur, a city-state of Sumeria. Raised in luxury and privilege, she defies her father on the day of her marriage and escapes into the lower city, where she meets Abraham of the nomadic mar.Tu people. Although soldiers take her home, she can't forget the young man who captured her heart and imagination. Owing to an injudicious use of infertility herbs in an effort to stave off marriage, Sarah renders herself sterile and is dedicated to the temple of Ishtar, where she serves as a revered Sacred Handmaid of the Blood for several years until she meets Abraham again. This time, she successfully escapes, and the two dedicate themselves to the one, true, invisible God and create a nation. A powerful addition to a genre made popular by Anita Diamant's The Red Tent, this is recommended for all public libraries; a reader's guide suitable for book discussion groups will be made available. [See also Rebecca Kohn's The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther, LJ 2/15/04.-Ed.]-Jane Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.