Saturday, June 6, 2009

Solomon and Sheba

The maps in this novel enliven and are indispensable to decipher narrative flow and the fiction brings to life the encounter of Sheba and Solomon in a visual and vivid way.It is what might have happened and gives the literary imagination free reign to explore possibilities. Thirteen brief verses of the bible could engender such an imaginative rendering lends credence to the power of this story and to the meaning of its inclusion in the sacred text. The Royal house of David surprises Bilqis and confuses her how the concubines of Solomon (wives) can be happy.The deceased Abishag casts a blinding shadow in Solomon's house as well. Note as well the feminist point of view, and the allusion to Solomon's judgment of the two mothers hearkens back to the scriptural scene exemplifying his wisdom.

Wisdom's Daughter: A Novel of Solomon and Sheba
by India Edghill
Order: USA Can
Picador, 2005 (2004)Hardcover, Softcover
an Excerpt

Reviewed by Barbara
From thirteen brief verses in the Bible, India Edghill has fashioned
a beautiful story of what might have happened when the Queen of Sheba met King
Solomon. Well plotted and richly imagined, the novel overflows with stories and
personalities. It is a good thing there are maps and a list of characters and
even family trees (although the difference between the Roman and Italic type in
the latter is not as great as it should be).
Bilqis, the Queen of Sheba, has no
heiress and is beyond child-bearing age. She seeks to solve this problem in the
land of Israel, where Solomon reigns. He has many wives and children, but his
favorite is Baalit, his daughter by his deceased first wife Abishag. The royal
house of Sheba is a matriarchy in the fullest sense. Military strength is
provided by women. Male servants are mostly eunuchs. The royal house of David,
therefore, has many surprises for Bilqis and her court. They cannot imagine how
the wives of Solomon can be happy, housed as they are in their own area of the
palace, separated from all worldly affairs. The queen's visit lays bare many
stories, not least of which is that of Solomon as husband and father.
Just as
Bilqis must return with a future queen, so must Solomon come to understand how
his continuing grief for the deceased Abishag has blinded him to the reality of
his living family. The author has created a powerful story in the meeting of
Solomon and Bilqis, which turns out to have important ramifications for so many
others in this novel.Necessarily more fiction than history, the novel fleshes
out Solomon's famous judgment of the two mothers who claimed the same child.

Though well done, the scene seems a bit obligatory in the context of the story.
Nevertheless, this is fine historical fiction. Rich in detail, descriptions of
the lavishness of both courts, the exotic jewelry and dress, as well as of the
pets that amused the queens and the horses that served royalty, make this a
highly visual novel. Advancing the story from each character's point of view was
not an easy choice and would be very hard to follow were it not for all the
upfront maps and guides, but somehow it rings true with most of the characters.
Though the novel is written from a feminist point of view, the male characters
do not suffer, and we are enriched by the unusual perspective. Wisdom's Daughter
is highly recommended.

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