I enjoy reading books such as “The Book of V.” by Anna Solomon. They inspire me to research characters from history about whom I may know very little.
In this case, I searched online and in the Bible to learn more about the biblical Esther, whose story is told in this book. Esther's story is not considered to be a historical document, but it does push the narrative of the deliverance of the Jewish people from a massacre by the king of Persia between 485 and 464 BC. Purim, a spring festival, celebrates this event today.
The novel opens with a simple retelling of the Book of Esther from a children’s book that Lily, a woman from modern times, is reading to her daughters. The main characters of the Bible story are introduced. Lily is tired of the story because it reminds her that she has to make costumes for her children for the annual Purim play that’s coming up.
Along with Esther’s story, the narration alternates between that of Lily and Vee, women just a generation apart from each other. Both have something in common with Esther and also with Vashti, the queen replaced by Esther. The individual stories contain themes of the power and the powerlessness of women.
Vee is a senator’s wife who must decide if being a potential first lady is worth the abuse she suffers at the hands of her husband. Lily, a mother of two young girls, is trying to live up to her own mother’s expectations that she “do” something with her life.
Solomon has drawn parallels between the lives of seemingly very different women. In doing so, the author reflects universal truths about women and their choices that cross centuries. She shows the strength of women who are able to make their own choices, do good for others, and develop and retain their dignity. I enjoyed the book very much.