Solomon (Leaving Lucy Pear) models this clever, heartfelt triptych on The Hours, weaving a retelling of the biblical story of Esther with the linked stories of a senator’s wife and a Brooklyn mom. In the ancient Persian town of Susa, new king Ahasuerus banishes his wife, Vashti, after she refuses to strip for Ahasuerus’s friends. At a house party in 1970s Washington, D.C., Vee Kent’s husband, Sen. Alexander Kent, makes the same lewd request Ahasuerus made to Vashti. Vee refuses, and is sent packing by Alexander’s chief of staff. Vee takes refuge with her best friend, Rosemary, who’s converting to Judaism in solidarity with her husband. In 2016 Brooklyn, Lily is getting her kids ready for Purim when she learns that her mother, Ruth, has been diagnosed with cancer. Later, Lily connects with one of Ruth’s old friends, who shares surprising details about her mother’s identity and past experience. Solomon connects these stories in a way that’s fresh and tantalizing, with fascinating intergenerational discussions about desire, duty, family, and feminism, as well as a surprising, completely believable twist. This frank, revisionist romp through a Bible tale is a winner. (May)
Esther, the Old Testament teenager who reluctantly married a Persian king and saved her people, is connected across the ages to two more contemporary women in a sinuous, thoughtful braid of women’s unceasing struggles for liberty and identity.
Biblical Esther, second-wave feminist Vee, and contemporary mother-of-two Lily are the women whose narrative strands and differing yet sometimes parallel dilemmas are interwoven in Solomon’s (Leaving Lucy Pear, 2016, etc.) questing, unpredictable new novel. All three are grappling—some more dangerously than others—with aspects of male power versus their own self-determination. Esther, selected from 40 virgins to be the second queen—after her predecessor, Vashti, was banished (or worse)—is the strangest. Her magical powers can bring on a shocking physical transformation or reanimate a skeletal bird, yet she is still a prisoner in a gilded cage, mother to an heir, frustrated daughter of an imperiled tribe. Vee, wife of an ambitious senator in 1970s Washington, finds herself a player in a House of Cards–type scenario, pressured toward sexual humiliation by her unscrupulous husband. Lily, in 21st-century Brooklyn, has chosen motherhood over work and is fretting about the costumes for her two daughters to wear at the Purim carnival honoring Esther. Alongside questions of male dominance, issues of sexuality arise often, as do female communities, from Esther’s slave sisters to Vee’s consciousness-raising groups to Lily’s sewing circle. And while layers of overlap continue among the three women's stories—second wives, sewing, humming—so do subtly different individual choices. Finely written and often vividly imagined, this is a cerebral, interior novel devoted to the notion of womanhood as a composite construction made up of myriad stories and influences.
A bold, fertile work lit by powerful images, often consumed by debate, almost old-school in its feminist commitment.
From the Publisher
An NPR Book Concierge Pick * A Real Simple Best Book of 2020 (So Far) * A Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2020
“The engrossing, highly readable, darkly sexy third novel by Anna Solomon…The Book of V. is a meditation on female power and powerlessness, the stories told about women and the ones we tell about and to ourselves.” The New York Times Book Review
“An absorbing story about desire, power imbalances and the quest for self-determinationa feminist rallying cry born in the private spaces of women’s lives.” People Magazine, *Book of the Week*
"The Book of V. is brainy and sexy and roots us so completely in these three women’s bodies and lives, that I couldn’t put it down. The writing is so brilliant some passages took my breath away, and when I thought I knew where the novel was headed, I was wrong. This novel is a gift, and I highly recommend you read it." Ann Napolitano, New York Times bestselling author of Dear Edward
"Irresistible, sexy and intelligent…The Book of V. radiates a dynamism that invites rereads and generously keeps givingchallenging and arousing us as it delights." The Washington Post
“Compulsively readable . . . blending real history and radical fiction into one enthralling whole." Entertainment Weekly's Top Ten Books of 2020 So Far
“The Book of V. is a marvel. It’s a testament to the enduring strength and flexibility of the novel form itself, and a testament to the wisdom, clarity, and boldness of Anna Solomon. She is a remarkable writer who has written an extraordinary book." Jane Hamilton, author of The Excellent Lombards
“[An] engrossing story… Even if you think you don't like historical fiction, you'll eat this one up.” Good Housekeeping
“Solomon connects these stories in a way that’s fresh and tantalizing, with fascinating intergenerational discussions about desire, duty, family, and feminism, as well as a surprising, completely believable twist. This frank, revisionist romp through a Bible tale is a winner.” Publishers Weekly, *starred review*
“In The Book of V., Anna Solomon reaches across centuries to capture the timeliness and timelessness of being a strong, passionate woman in a world governed by men. How far we've come and yet how many of the battles look the same. I was riveted by this searingly inventive, humane, and honest page-turner of a novel." Mary Beth Keane, author of Ask Again, Yes
“Thought-provoking fiction… The Book of V. asks complicated questions about power, desire, and the evolution of women’s roles.” Real Simple
“Moving, surprising, so touchingly detailed and authentic as to seem more real than life...For a novel to offer such delightfully realized characters as well as such taut pacing is a fine accomplishment." Shelf Awareness
"Anna Solomon’s The Book of V. is a novel as fierce as its heroines, traversing centuries to explore the tentacles of desire and despair that can anchor the psyche or explode it. It’s a book that understands how many different women live in every woman: the lover, the mother, the artist, the rebel, the friend, the caregiver, the beast, the survivor. Solomon’s imagination is as thrilling as it is nuancedgripping the senses and the heart at once, telling a story that vibrates with urgency and truth." Leslie Jamison, New York Times bestselling author of Make it Scream, Make it Burn and The Empathy Exams
“Finely written and often vividly imagined…A bold, fertile work lit by powerful images.” Kirkus Reviews, *starred review*
“[An] evocative novel…each story line is captivating.” Booklist
“Solomon masterfully interweaves the stories of three women… [she] reminds us that women are not archetypes, not just good or evil…Indeed, Lily gives voice to the lesson that she has learned: ‘The type of woman you imagine yourself becoming does not exist.’” Hadassah Magazine