|India Edghill: Queenmaker|
Martin's Press (Hardcover), ISBN 0312289189
Queenmaker offers a plausible set of circumstances regarding how this turnaround might have happened. After all, Michal's love and hatred of David must have been profound indeed for her emotions to achieve mention in the Holy Scriptures.
Queenmaker follows Michal's life, beginning as a young princess in her father's modest court. In typical teenaged fashion, she develops an infatuation for the handsome slayer of the Philistine menace, Goliath. This infatuation earns her father's wrath, because Saul has already begun his descent into madness and perceives David as a threat.
Hoping to entrap David, Saul allows him to marry Michal, but she helps her new husband escape. Furious, Saul marries her off to Phaltiel, a widower living far from court. While David and his troops dodge Saul's forces, Michal's hopes of rescue dwindle, especially after she learns of David's marriage to another woman.
Ten years later, David, now king, sends an entourage to retrieve Michal. David needs Saul's daughter to strengthen the legitimacy of his rule, and he refuses to be denied. But in the interim, Michal learned contentment as Phaltiel's wife. The realization of her status as a political pawn sets Michal on the path to despising David, and his womanizing keeps her there.
The first two-thirds of Queenmaker follows the Biblical account (chronicled in the first books of Samuel) fairly well. But the author attempts to vindicate Michal by portraying David -- "a man after [God's] own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14) -- as a hypocritical, manipulative megalomaniac. This may have been true to a certain extent, but Edghill misrepresents several events in the David-Bathsheba affair to make her case.
Most notably, she portrays Solomon as the child born of David and Bathsheba's adultery to "prove" David's hypocrisy and the prophet Nathan's ineffectualness. The Bible records in 2 Samuel 12:18 that the original child did die, in accordance with Nathan's prophecy and in spite of David's abject repentance.
Writers often conflate several historical characters into a single fictional character for simplicity's sake. However, Edghill's conflating of Solomon with his older sibling ranks with the Koran's erroneous conflation of Moses' sister Miriam with Mary, the mother of Jesus.
And a vague sense nagged at me while reading Queenmaker that the book lacked "Jewishness." Then it hit me: not once did Edghill portray a Hebrew religious ritual. The ancient Hebrews' life-rhythms beat to the drum of feast and sacrifice, and this omission removes a vital element from the period's depiction.
If you enjoy novels that besmirch famous heroes' reputations, then don't let me stop you from reading Queenmaker. Just don't take the story as gospel truth.
Kim D. Headlee
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