The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther

The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther

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by Rebecca Kohn
     
 

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For centuries her name has been a byword for feminine beauty, guile, and wisdom. This sweeping, meticulously researched novel restores Esther to her full, complex humanity while reanimating the glittering Persian empire in which her story unfolded. Esther comes to that land as a terrified Jewish orphan betrothed to her cousin, a well-connected courtier. She finds a

Overview

For centuries her name has been a byword for feminine beauty, guile, and wisdom. This sweeping, meticulously researched novel restores Esther to her full, complex humanity while reanimating the glittering Persian empire in which her story unfolded. Esther comes to that land as a terrified Jewish orphan betrothed to her cousin, a well-connected courtier. She finds a world racked by intrigue and unfathomable hatreds and realizes that the only way to survive is to win the heart of its king. Passionate, suspenseful, and historically authentic, The Gilded Chamber illuminates the dilemma of a woman torn between her heart and her sense of duty, resulting in pure narrative enchantment.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Gilded Chamber is a world unto itself and one well worth entering." —Margaret George, author of Mary, Called Magdalene

"A triumph of historical imagination and a must-read for lovers—and lovers of Jewish history." —Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire

"Fans of Orson Scott Card’s Sarah and Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent have a new author to follow in Kohn." —Library Journal

"Evocatively and sensuously told." —Booklist

"Evokes Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent in style and Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha in setting." —The Jewish Journal

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A beloved biblical heroine, Queen Esther is joyfully remembered on the Jewish holiday of Purim for bravely revealing her Jewish heritage and saving her people from destruction. Now debut novelist Kohn probes the details of this cherished tale, and unveils a story both more sinister and more complex than readers of the Book of Esther ever realized.

Kohn's tension-filled prose reflects the dangers of the ancient Persian Empire and describes how a young Esther is brought to her cousin's home after being orphaned. Her intended husband, Mordechai, is charged with her care until she's old enough to wed, but thus far he has hidden his Jewish identity to procure an esteemed position in the king's court. And when Esther is captured to serve as a concubine for the king, Mordechai informs her that she must never let anyone know she's a Jew.

The Gilded Chamber is not just a Jewish story but a human one, as Esther grapples with the need to hide her identity. By refusing to acknowledge her heritage, she helps Mordechai retain his position, improves the lives of the women in the harem, and eventually rises to become the queen. But her silence is emotionally painful to keep, and it becomes indefensible when the evil courtier Haman proposes the killing of the Jewish people. (Summer 2004 Selection)

Publishers Weekly
In this measured, eloquent retelling of Jewish heroine Esther's rise from orphanhood to queen of the Persian empire, Kohn brings psychological nuance and stately elegance to the ancient biblical tale that is the basis for the Jewish holiday of Purim. Narrating in the first person, Esther (born Hadassah) tells how she is forcibly taken from her home to the royal harem of King Xerxes in Babylon. Her uncle Mordechai, a high-ranking treasury official in the king's service, warns her, "Do not reveal your people or your kindred.... Let yourself be known only as Esther, foster daughter of Marduka the Babylonian." The novel is by and large faithful to the biblical account and often quotes from it verbatim. Yet Kohn deftly fills the gaps and resolves the ambiguities in the Book of Esther with creative storytelling and historical research. As Esther recognizes her strengths and responsibilities and learns the ways of the palace, so do we; the oppressive closeness of the harem ("the lingering odors of perfume, food, and lamp oil"), the pervasive abuse, the fragile alliances and deadly schemes all come to life. Kohn's Esther has a will of steel and knows how to manipulate lusty, impetuous Xerxes, but she longs for a simpler life. Her sacrifices are finally rewarded when the king's trusted courtier Haman issues a decree ordering the slaughter of the Jews, and Esther is in a position to be able to save her people. Though the novel's pace slows at times, Kohn paints a convincing, complex picture of Esther, and her descriptions of the palace and its secrets will hold readers spellbound. Agent, Esther Sung. Author tour. (Apr. 2) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In her debut novel, Kohn has rediscovered one of the best-loved women of the Old Testament. According to that book, Esther was orphaned at the age of ten and sent to live with her cousin and betrothed, Mordechai, a treasury official in the Babylonian court of Xerxes. Later abducted and brought to court as a concubine to the king, Esther became a favorite and then a queen-but with much politicking and heartbreak. Kohn's Esther is similar to the one in the Bible: a woman of great beauty, passion, loyalty, and courage who manages to save the Jews from extermination. Without sacrificing any of the biblical story's narrative, the author has fleshed out a world where intrigue, power, politics, and sensuality rule the day. Fans of Orson Scott Card's Sarah and Anita Diamant's The Red Tent have a new author to follow in Kohn.-Jane Baird, Anchorage Municipal Libs., AK Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A debut written in the voice of Esther, the Jewish heroine who became Queen of Persia and saved her people from destruction by the villainous Lord Haman. Esther (considered by rabbinic tradition as one of the four most beautiful women in history) was born to a family of devout Jews, in Babylon, in the fifth century b.c., betrothed early on to her cousin Mordecai, and orphaned at the age of ten. After her parents' death, she was sent to live with Mordecai, a high treasury official serving King Xerxes, in the Persian city of Susa. Mordecai once saved Xerxes' life and enjoys royal favor as a result; nevertheless, he feels obliged to conceal his Judaism and instructs Esther to do the same. When Xerxes' wife, Queen Vashti, defies the king in public, she is banished, and royal agents scour the country to find a maiden to replace her. Esther is abducted, imprisoned in the royal harem, and eventually chosen by Xerxes as his new queen. In the meantime, Xerxes' wicked prime minister, Haman, plots to overcome Mordecai (his rival for the king's favor) by inciting the king to issue a decree ordering the execution of all Jews-beginning with Mordecai. Esther, telling the king that she too is a Jew, protects her people by exposing the treason behind Haman's plots. Eventually, Haman is hanged from the very gallows that had been built for Mordecai, and Esther lives happily ever after as the most honored woman in the realm. Kohn keeps her narrative closely in line with the biblical account but fleshes out the story, offering a deliberately provocative sketch of the daily life of women in the ancient world. A nice retelling that adds a great deal by way of color and perspective-even if not much depth-to afamous and greatly beloved tale. Agent: Esther Sung/Sanford J. Greenburger Associates

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143035336
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/26/2005
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
5.03(w) x 7.73(h) x 0.81(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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Paul Thomas MD graduated from Dartmouth Medical School and is board certified in Integrative and Holistic Medicine, Pediatrics and Addiction Medicine. He is father to 10 children, primary care physician to over 10,000 patients, and has mentored countless medical students and naturopathic physicians over the past two decades.

Understanding that health is best achieved by avoiding toxins and optimizing hormones and nutrients, his philosophy of natural medicine is grounded in evidenced-based medicine from all disciplines of medicine. This book is an attempt to reach a broader audience with the hope that you can regain your youthful health.

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"The Gilded Chamber is a world unto itself and one well worth entering." —Margaret George, author of Mary, Called Magdalene

"A triumph of historical imagination and a must-read for lovers—and lovers of Jewish history." —Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire

"Fans of Orson Scott Card’s Sarah and Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent have a new author to follow in Kohn." —Library Journal

"Evocatively and sensuously told." —Booklist

"Evokes Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent in style and Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha in setting." —The Jewish Journal

Meet the Author

Rebecca Kohn lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, with her husband and daughter. The Gilded Chamber is is her first novel.

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The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I ran across this book doing a search for a book about Queen Esther. This book is based on the true story in the Bible but is fiction. I enjoyed this book so much before I knew it I was finished with the entire book. I looked forward to reading it and it was always hard to put down. Rebecca Kohn tried to imagine what it would be like to be in the kings harem and gave great details of what it could have been like. It shows a new perspective in the very difficult life that Queen Esther endured rather than enjoyed. In a time of many idols Esther stayed true to the one and true God and God rescued her. This book had some things that may be tabu to some. Its not something I would want my 13 year old daughter to read. Not this version of the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put this book down, and that hardly ever happens. I would reccomend this book to people who like historical novels and just plain good stories. It is intense and grabs you till the end!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book was well written.Even though I thought it was sexist(in my opinion).I felt like I was actually there.But I think that the women we're treated terribly.I liked the fact that Esther was strong, even though she was not treated that nicely by the king or the eunuchs.I would reccomend it to anyone who likes to read about ancient Persia.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Awesome.
ProfessorChristopher More than 1 year ago
For a debut novel, The Gilded Chamber is good quality. There is a high level of fidelity to the Biblical Scroll of Esther, and to the historical record. A glaring exception is the early portrayal of Darius as a son of Cyrus the Great, somewhat clarified later in the book, but this point remains muddled. Another questionable item is the dwelling on a Babylonian uprising in which Hadassah's father dies, giving the story a feel of having one foot in the Babylonian Empire and another in the Persian Empire. Some readers will also take umbrage with cousins Esther and Mordechai being intended as lovers, but from a plot point of view, this makes enough dramatic sense to be forgiven. Kohn is more loyal than Anita Diamant to history and the Bible, and her follow-up Seven Days to the Sea is an improvement over her debut, and thus wholly recommended.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
emmi331 More than 1 year ago
Those unfamiliar with the Old Testament may vaguely recall Esther as someone important in Jewish history. Esther was a beautiful young Jewish woman taken as a concubine for King Xerxes of Persia. Eventually she became his queen, and was ultimately responsible for saving the lives of thousands of Jews doomed to "ethnic cleansing" at the hands of the king's militia. The feast of Purim continues to be celebrated in honor of Esther's heroism and courage. Author Rebecca Kohn vividly recreates the great palace, life in the harem, and the deadly intrigue surrounding the throne. Esther - clever, resourceful, and compassionate - triumphs over all, faithfully placing her trust in God. A book that is very hard to put aside once begun!
redkitty More than 1 year ago
This was the very interesting story of Esther from the Old Testament. This book isn't about religion and you don't need to be religious to read it. It was a fantastic way to become more informed of a beautiful story in the Bible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
You will travel back in time and feel as if you are living the life of Queen Esther. A heartfelt and engaging human story. You will not be disappointed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an excellent book! I found it while shopping, got it home and could not put it down! I loved how the retelling of Ester came alive! I'm Jewish and I always love reading the Megillah at Purim time and booing Hamen! This book is great and I highly recommend it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in one day because I enjoyed it so much!! I was eager to learn what was going to happen next for Queen Esther. Before the book, I was unfamiliar with the bible story from The Book of Esther. I will remember the story from the bible because the author added enough to the story to make it memorable and interesting!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book so much.While it is similar to 'Hadassah' One Night With the King,I relished every line until the end. I look for more historical novels from this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You open the first page and can never stop reading until the book is finished! I could not put it down!!!! Filled with continous twists and turns of the characters. A MUST read!!!!!! Especially, if you read The Red Tent!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am enriched and strengthened by this wonderful book. Esther is a model for all women as she uses her gifts to endure her life. Her story and the lives of those who care for her will be with me for a long time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story was beautifully written and I do indeed look forward to Rebecca Kohn's next endeavor. With her fully developed characters, she puts you into the story heart and soul. You will find yourself totally absorbed in the story and will not regret the time spent reading about all the fascinating idiosyncrasies of harem life, and the privileges of royalty. Read it today!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Splendid representation of an ordinary woman who had to accept choices for her - not by her. Ms. Kohn guides us beautifully through Esther's growning maturity and discernment while exiled in an ancient harem where women are only valued for their sexual proclivities. The book treats us all to intimate images of palaces, gorgeous clothes, as well as the fear and brutality suffered simultaneously. Pay your rent, take a break from work as this book is indeed a PAGE TURNER. I so hope that Ms. Kohn in now very busily writing her next novel!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I did not like this book at all. I do not see how anyone can compare this to The Red Tent.