In this evocative novel based on biblical events, Gormley (C.S. Lewis: The Man Behind Narnia) fleshes out the beguiling story of Salome that has captivated artists and writers for centuries. Readers meet Salome, granddaughter to King Herod of Judea (the one whose actions brought about the celebration of Passover), at age 14, dreaming of becoming a dancer in the Temple of Diana in Rome. Soon her uncle Antipas visits and woos her mother, Herodias, away from Salome's father, Herod Junior, to begin a new life in Judea. As the novel progresses, Salome begins to develop into an independent-minded, if still uncertain, young woman, drawn to those who live principled lives. The tragedy unfolds when "John the Baptizer" condemns the marriage of Herod and Herodias as adulterous, provoking the wrath of Salome's self-absorbed mother. Gormley's retelling weaves a plausible and harrowing description of how in one fateful night Salome becomes a vessel of her mother's avaricious desires. Salome remains a sympathetic character as she repents her part in the beheading of John the Baptist, and is redeemed through her generous acts. Gormley subtly depicts the larger forces at work (e.g., just before John is led to his execution, he learns that his cousin, Yeshua of Nazareth, is "the One Who Is to Come," and goes peacefully to his death). The author's rendering of Salome's reflection on the events are appropriately prophetic: "Maybe, in years to come, the story of the Baptizer's death would be the only thing that anyone remembered about me." Ages 12-up. (Apr.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Salomeby Beatrice Gormley
Her name is Salome. You may think you know her/i>
If I'd never hoped to live in a world of goodness and truth—if the priestess of Diana, then Leander, and Joanna, hadn't shown me glimpses of it—maybe I wouldn't have minded being shut out of it. Maybe the preacher's death wouldn't have trapped me in a dungeon, the dungeon of my own self.
Her name is Salome. You may think you know her story—how her seductive Dance of the Seven Veils led to the beheading of John the Baptist. But you don't know it from her side. You don't know how a web of betrayal, and greed, and desire was spun around an innocent teenage girl. How she came to doubt her own mother. How she searched for a friend in an unfamiliar land. And how she walked into a trap that changed the course of history.
This is Salome's story, in her own words. Listen, and learn of strength, of power, of loyalty—and of death.
From the Hardcover edition.
In the Bible, the infamous Salome asks for the head of John the Baptist after her provocative dance at the birthday of her stepfather, Herod. This absorbing novel re-creates the events surrounding her coldhearted request. Jewish by birth but raised in Rome, Salome wants nothing more than to become a priestess at the temple of Diana. Instead, her manipulative mother, who divorced Salome's father and married Herod Antipas, the ruler of the Jewish people in Tiberias, takes her to her new home far from Rome. At this point in her life, Salome is beginning to notice the intricacies of political life, the selfishness of the ruling classes, and the potential that each person has for good and evil. Eventually, she is caught between the machinations of her insecure, self-centered mother and the desires of her lecherous stepfather, and in a moment of panic, she does what her mother desires-she asks for John's head. Gormley effectively captures the confusion of an unhappy adolescent and the shallowness of her narcissistic mother in a well-plotted tale that keeps readers engaged. Though most of the book is about Salome, a few chapters are told from the point of view of John. These chapters, as well as some of the events in the story, convey clearly the message that John, and later Yeshua, are preaching, a message unsettling to those in power. Many of the questions that the book raises are still being grappled with today, and as a result, the novel will appeal to thoughtful readers as well as to those who simply want to lose themselves in a good story.
Barbara ScottoCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
“A fresh look at an old story.”—Kirkus Reviews
- Random House Children's Books
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Random House
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 363 KB
- Age Range:
- 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
Ordinarily, upper-class Roman girls didn’t dance. Dancers were lower-class entertainers, sluts. But it was entirely proper for well-bred girls to dance in the rites at the Temple of Diana. Diana, goddess of the moon and of the hunt, was also the protector of young girls. So, many well-to-do families sent their daughters for lessons at the Temple. There we received training in deportment (which is what our mothers cared about) and got to run around with other girls (which is what we cared about).
We Herods weren’t actually Roman, of course: we were Jews from Judea. But like other wealthy foreigners in Rome—no matter whether they were from Ephesus in Anatolia, Cyrene in Africa, or Gadis in Spain—we lived an upper-class Roman life. There were many Jews of lesser birth in Rome, but for the most part they kept to themselves in the Jewish quarter of the city. Their women hardly went out at all.
By the time I was twelve, I looked forward even more than before to my lessons at the Temple of Diana. I’d been enrolled at the Temple for years, and I’d always liked the training, especially learning the sacred songs and dances. The priestess was strict but kind to all the girls, and there was a peaceful sense of order in the Temple grounds.
Now I grew quickly, and soon I was tall for my age. My size made me feel awkward, and I had to struggle to make my hands and feet do what they were supposed to. Herodias joked that I would cross a room in order to find the one loose floor tile and stumble over it.
Since I felt so clumsy, I was grateful that I could dance as well as ever. Even with my new self-consciousness, I could still move gracefully when the pipes and tambourines started up. The music seemed to guide my body for me. I danced well even on festival days, when all the mothers came to the Temple to watch us take part in the rites.
One afternoon in November when I was just fourteen, I hurried home from the Temple, accompanied as usual by Gundi. I was glowing with pride. Today the priestess had taken me aside and spoken to me. She’d been watching my progress, and she wondered if I might have a calling to become a priestess.
“I am going to recommend that you try for a sign from Diana this spring,” she said. “One night during a full moon, you will sleep in the Temple at the feet of the great statue. If the goddess chooses you to serve her, she will give some sign.” She would talk to my mother about it and consult the auspices for a favorable date.
I was flattered, although I hadn’t thought of joining the cult. I knew that my mother’s only purpose in sending me to the Temple of Diana was to help me gain poise and a proper sense of my role as a woman of noble birth. Herodias liked to celebrate all kinds of holidays, but otherwise she wasn’t very devout to any deities, including the Jewish god.
At home I brushed past the doorkeeper, eager to tell Herodias how the priestess had complimented me. Then I stopped short, seeing the atrium full of men. Most of them were dressed in Eastern robes, although a few husky fellows wore uniforms—short tunics and capes and leather breastplates. These guards were throwing dice. The other men talked among themselves, except for a young man in a long Greek-style tunic and draped cloak. Leaning against a pillar, he was absorbed in reading a scroll.
“What’s all this?” muttered Gundi. She took me by the elbow to hurry me away from the eyes of so many strange men. I supposed they must be the attendants of someone visiting my father. But my father was usually out, in the Forum, at this hour.
Pausing in the doorway to the garden, I saw Herodias sitting by the fountain. It was a pleasantly warm day, although the afternoons were short this time of year. There was a table beside her with wine and cakes.
“Salome, there you are,” said Herodias. “Come greet your uncle Antipas.” On a bench facing my mother, his back to me, sat a man in an embroidered robe.
I hadn’t seen Antipas (actually Herodias’s uncle and my great-uncle) for years. That time, he’d been visiting Rome with one of his half brothers, Philip of Gaulanitis. But I remembered his powerful neck and shoulders. Herod Antipas, ruler of Galilee and Perea on the eastern side of the Empire. Like my father, Herod Junior, Antipas was one of the many sons of the late King Herod the Great of Judea. It seemed these two half brothers were on speaking terms for the moment—you never could tell with the Herods.
I came into the garden and stood beside Herodias. Antipas’s iron gray hair was short in the Roman style, and his trimmed beard set off a rather delicate mouth. I said politely, “Welcome to Rome and to our house, Great-Uncle.” I hoped he wouldn’t be staying with us.
Taking a sip from his goblet, Antipas looked me over. He remarked to my mother, “She’s grown, hasn’t she? Salome doesn’t look much like you, except for her big brown eyes.”
Uncomfortable, I turned my big brown eyes aside to the mosaic on the fountain wall. It pictured a maenad, an attendant of the god Dionysus, whirling in an ecstatic dance.
Herodias patted my arm. “Yes, she reminds me of a calf—a dear sweet calf.”
They went on with their conversation, mainly Herodias listening with rapt attention while Antipas talked. He had a deep, rich voice, and it grew warmer as he described Galilee. Herodias knew Jerusalem in Judea from her girlhood, but she’d hardly ever been to Galilee.
Antipas had hired a Roman city planner and built himself a beautiful capital city, named Tiberias in honor of the Emperor. This new city, on a slope above a lake (renamed Lake Tiberias in honor of the Emperor), was gifted with all the best features of Rome: a forum, a theater, a stadium. The public baths were especially luxurious, because of the natural hot springs.
And the palace! Antipas made a sweeping gesture, in- dicating a building grander than we could imagine. (I noticed how small his hands were in contrast with his thick body.) Whitest marble, the palace was, its roof covered with gold leaf.
Herodias seemed entranced with all these details. She kept her long-lashed dark eyes fixed on this half brother of her husband. Meanwhile, I watched her. Herodias was a slim, sleek woman, younger-seeming than her thirty-four years. I’d always thought she was beautiful, but I’d never seen a man gaze at her the way Antipas was doing. Antipas and Herodias almost seemed to be alone together. In a charmed circle.
As Antipas talked on about his building program for Tiberias, I fidgeted with the waist cord of my stola. My mother turned to me as if she’d forgotten I was standing there. “You may go, Salome dear.” Antipas’s eyes rested on me again for a moment.
His look made my insides tighten, and I forgot how to move. I swear the table with the wine pitcher was not in my way when I came into the garden, but somehow I bumped against it as I turned to leave. Herodias caught the pitcher before it fell off the table and broke, but the red liquid splashed over the tiles.
A maid rushed to mop up the spilled wine. Herodias joked to Antipas, “Didn’t I say Salome was like a calf?” Somehow I got out of the garden, my face burning.
From the Hardcover edition.
Meet the Author
Beatrice Gormley is the author of many novels and biographies, including Back to the Titanic!, Miriam, and Julius Caesar: Young Statesman.
From the Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews
Have you ever felt like no one listens to you?Do you ever feel like your opinion doesn't matter.That's how Salome feels.Salome seems to think that no one cares about what she does or thinks.To feel like everything comes back on you like karma.Salome tells her parents things she thinks are going to happen,but they don't listen.Salome is a very good book and I recommend this book to all who read this review.Hope you enjoy it.
I would have enjoyed some more detail on character insight and the descriptions of the scenes, but this is an overall good and interesting look at the life of a young woman known for only one specific act during her life. I'm definitely interested in finding more material of similar content.
I thought this would be a great book. Even though it is not out yet, I lost intrest in the first chapter. That chapter lacked a few componets of literature. It doesn't really flow and I can't seem to figure out what the author is saying.
The first few pages of this book were good. But then I lost interest in it. Then I went to the back of the book to read the epilogue. The epilogue was more interesting than the story. I thought reading about Salome was going to be interesting but it was kind of boring.