Wednesday, April 29, 2020
Published May 2020 by Holt, Henry and Company, Inc.
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review
For fans of The Hours and Fates and Furies, a bold, kaleidoscopic novel intertwining the lives of three women across three centuries as their stories of sex, power, and desire finally converge in the present day.
Lily is a mother and a daughter. And a second wife. And a writer, maybe? Or she was going to be, before she had children. Now, in her rented Brooklyn apartment she’s grappling with her sexual and intellectual desires, while also trying to manage her roles as a mother and a wife in 2016.
Vivian Barr seems to be the perfect political wife, dedicated to helping her charismatic and ambitious husband find success in Watergate-era Washington D.C. But one night he demands a humiliating favor, and her refusal to obey changes the course of her life—along with the lives of others.
Esther is a fiercely independent young woman in ancient Persia, where she and her uncle’s tribe live a tenuous existence outside the palace walls. When an innocent mistake results in devastating consequences for her people, she is offered up as a sacrifice to please the King, in the hopes that she will save them all.
In Anna Solomon's The Book of V., these three characters' riveting stories overlap and ultimately collide, illuminating how women’s lives have and have not changed over thousands of years.
I can't actually recall requesting this book but I can tell you two reasons why I would have - I love the cover of this one and that opening paragraph comparing this book to Fates and Furies, a book I very much enjoyed and which was a probably the most talked about book in 2015. Comparing any book to it is a bold statement. Unfortunately, for me, it wasn't a comparison this one could live up to.
Perhaps if I'd more recently read the Book of Esther, this one would have had a greater impact on me. Because I hadn't, I didn't see where Solomon had veered away from that part of the Christian and Hebrew bibles and it made the final chapter of her story less impactful. Unfortunately, this storyline was also the storyline in which I had the least interest which was a problem given that it's the story that the other two storylines are based on.
To be fair to this book, it sort of felt like the wrong book for me to be reading at this time. When I finished this book and started looking for what to read next, I knew I needed either something light or something that would take me to another world. In other words, nothing like this book at all which is a book entirely designed to make readers think about what it means to be a woman, now, forty years ago, and thousands of years ago. We're in the heads of these women a lot which makes it slow going. It also makes it a book I want to be able to recommend; I want to be able to say "read this book about how being a woman has changed and how it hasn't."
I'm loathe to tell you what my other issue was with the book because I know it's not going to be a popular thing for me to say. Here goes: there was a lot of religion in the book (duh, Book of Esther) and I felt like that part took away from the part I was interested. It's not that I'm opposed to religion in a book, and I'm always up for a book that teaches me something new. But I didn't really feel like I was learning from this book, just that religion was being forced into the storylines.
Ugh. I feel like I'm beating this book up. It's not a bad book. If I'd been in the right frame of mind, I feel like I would have enjoyed this one more. If I was more familiar with the story of Esther, I might have enjoyed this one more. If the summary interests you, check out other reviews. Other people may feel very differently about it.