by Marek Halter
Sarah, about the wife of the patriarch Abraham, is the first in a trilogy about women of the Old Testament (or the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible).
Similar in some ways to Anita Diamant's bestseller The Red Tent, the setting of Halter's novel is quite different. It opens in the city of Ur, history's primal urban setting, rather than in a nomadic desert encampment. When their menstrual blood comes, the women of the royal household retire not to a red tent full of feminine warmth, but to a grand chamber blighted by jealousies and political infighting. "During full moons, they would gather there to make vows and petitions that could be said nowhere else. It was a place where women laughed, wept, ate honey and cakes and fruit, shared their dreams and secrets - and sometimes died in agony. Occasionally, through the thick walls, Sarai had heard the screams of a woman in labor. She had seen women go in there, happy with their big bellies, and not come out again." The laboring women foreshadow the conflict that drives the plot.
Halter is a male novelist with an unusual ability to write from an intimate feminine point of view. He grew up in the Warsaw ghetto of Poland, from which his family escaped during World War II and eventually settled in France. Like his other novels, this one was written in French and translated into English. 2004, 294 pages.
More info on Sarah from Powell's Books
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