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Queenmaker: A Novel of King David's Queen

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2000

    Reinterpreting King David

    Here is an historical novel with a difference, a reimagining of an old story and its hero -- a king we knew from Sunday School, winner of a thousand battles, founder of an empire and a dynasty, beloved hero of his people and of his deity -- King David of 'David and Goliath' fame, as seen through eyes which the old biblical text tried mightily to conceal. In truth, though the David we have from the bible is the fair-haired child of the people of ancient Israel and their Lord, a careful reading of that tale reveals a very different man: a man who cleverly turns every situation to his advantage, who consistently says one thing but does another, who plays both sides of every conflict and who collects women as he does kingdoms. That we idolize this man today is a testimony to the spin his biblical handlers put on his tale. And to the fact that we will forgive certain folks almost anything.<P>India Edghill has given us this other David, the one who lurks just below the surface of the old tale for those of us willing to scrape away the heroic gloss and read the tale for what it is. Edghill's is the story of David as seen through the eyes of Michal, the woman he made queen of his kingdom, much against her will, the daughter of his predecessor King Saul, whom David hounded from his kingdom by shrewdness and trickery and then had the tale turned on its head so posterity would remember David himself as the aggrieved party. It's not a religiously correct interpretation by any means but one can argue that it's what the real story has to tell us, if we're open-minded enough to read between the lines. It's the story of David the soldier who betrayed his king and best friend, who dickered with and served their enemies, who took Michal against her will and installed her in his palace as a symbol of his right to rule from a usurped throne, who killed most of the surviving male members of her family and took one, a hopeless cripple, to live a prisoner at his court. A man who carefully ensured that he would always appear 'politically correct' despite the fact that his followers and servants wreaked bloody vengeance on the very folk he professed to love. A man who kept his word when the appearance of that suited him but who found ways to get around every obstacle when he needed to do that. No, this is not the David we remember from bible class. But it is the David which the biblical tales preserve. And India Edghill has dug him out.<P>This is the tale of David as seen through Michal's eyes, the daughter of the usurped king, reluctant wife to a dazzling dissembler, watching as the great hero of his people turns every event to his advantage and claims divine support for each maneuver. The tale effectively evokes the 'feel' of biblical times and Ms. Edghill has a fine ear for dialogue. Her words ring true and yet rarely sound too modern or inconsistent with the language of the original material. I did, however, miss a certain sense of the larger world around them but this was the result, no doubt, of the female point of view Ms. Edghill adopted since Michal spends much of the story cooped up in one king's house or another, the lot of royal women in those days, I suppose.<P>And I was a trifle disappointed by the rather one-sided view of David which is offered. For all his clever self-interest, the fascination of the original biblical story lies in how human David seems to be, heroic yet manipulative, honorable yet not above self-interested violations of honor. The biblical tale certainly subsumes all the bad 'stuff' beneath the gloss of piety and good-heartedness so that, in this work, Ms. Edghill manages to offer us a welcome antidote to the received view, based on the actual events themselves. But I think she missed an opportunity to give us a more rounded picture of David the King. If he wasn't the fair-haired hero of purest spirit which the biblical writers preserved for us, I suspect he also wasn't the totally unpleasant and false charmer Ms

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Intriguing historical fiction

    After losing several battles with their enemies due to a lack of a unified leader, the people cry out for a king. Reluctantly, the Prophet Samuel anoints farmer Saul as the first king of Israel because he is the only successful warrior in the land. King Saul suffers from dark moods that only his Harper David can ease with music. When David kills Goliath, he becomes the people¿s hero. David marries Saul¿s daughter Michal, but the jealous King plans to kill him. David flees and Saul annuls the marriage. He forces Michal to wed a farmer, Phatiel. Over the next decade, Saul goes mad, while Michal is contented. <P>When Saul and most of his sons die in battle, David becomes the king. He takes Michal away from Phatiel, but she insists on going home. David refuses to let her go and Phatiel dies in a suspicious accident. Over the years the popular David expands his kingdom and marries several women, including Bathsheba. <P>Years later, an elderly David lies dying without naming a successor. Michal takes his regal ring and gives it to Bathsheba¿s son Solomon. Michal realizes she has won because David coveted wealth and power while she sought love. <P>QUEENMAKER is a well-written historical fiction that provides a different slant on King David one of the more popular biblical figures. David, as seen through the eyes of Michael, his reluctant wife and queen, is a man who covets power and wealth Readers who believe in a literal translation of the Bible need to realize that David is treated as a selfish, Machiavellian individual. Through an interesting twist that uses references from the Kings Saul-David eras, India Edghill writes a fabulous but controversial work of biblical historical fiction that will please some readers while insulting others. <P>Harriet Klausner

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