“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”
This edition of Some of My Favorite Books showcases 2 books about women caught up the politics of their time. How they struggle to survive using only their beauty, their bodies and their minds provides us with insights into the strengths of a womens soul.
The Guilded Chamber by Rebecca Kohn is the story of Queen Esther. (Very good read.)
What The Red Tent did for Dinah, The Gilded Chamber, a first novel by Rebecca Kohn, might do for Esther, the woman who wielded power over a King. The story follows the Book of Esther very closely: Xerxes banishes his wife Vashti and sets about finding a new wife by claiming all the young virgins in the kingdom of Persia for his perusal and delectation. Esther, born Hadassah, is a young Jewish orphan, remanded to the custody of her cousin Mordechai, to whom she is betrothed. Mordechai attends to the King at the Palace, but no one knows that he is a Jew. He warns Hadassah to take the name Esther when she is swept up by the King's edict, and not to reveal her heritage.*(There is no preview for this book on Google Books.)*
After a year of being pampered by court slaves, Esther is presented to the King. He is instantly smitten and makes her his Queen. Esther longs for Mordechai but succumbs to the blandishments of the King to save herself from being sent to the soldiers--a horrible fate. In the course of Palace intrigue, Haman, a truly evil man who is viewed as a trusted servant of the King, plots to kill Mordechai, who will not bow to him, and ultimately to kill all the Jews in the Kingdom. King Xerxes, a bit of a buffoon both in the Bible and in Kohn's book, is languishing under the effects of idleness and too much wine. He gives Haman his signet ring; Haman drafts the edict which will result in the death of the Jews and seals it with the King's ring. Now, Esther must save her people.
I'd also like to recommend In The Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant, her second book after The Birth of Venus (another good read).
From Publishers Weekly
Renaissance Italy enchants in Dunant's delicious second historical (after The Birth of Venus), as a wily dwarf Bucino Teodoldo recounts fantastic escapades with his mistress, celebrated courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini. Escaping the 1527 sacking of Rome with just the clothes on their backs (and a few swallowed jewels in their bellies), Fiammetta and Bucino seek refuge in Venice. Starved, stinking, her beauty destroyed, Fiammetta despairs—but through cunning, will, Bucino's indefatigable loyalty and the magic of a mysterious blind healer called La Draga, she eventually recovers. Aided by a former adversary, who now needs her as much as she needs him, Fiammetta finds a wealthy patron to establish her in her familiar glory. Through Bucino's sharp-eyed, sharp-tongued narration, Dunant crafts a vivid vision of Venetian life: the weave of politics and religion; the layers of class; the rituals, intrigue, superstitions and betrayals. Dunant's characters—the steely courtesan whose glimpse of true love nearly brings her to ruin; the shrewd and passionate dwarf who turns his abnormalities into triumph; and the healer whose mysterious powers and secrets leave an indelible mark on the duo—are irresistible throughout their shifting fortunes.
For a preview (click here) Google Books
Hope you enjoy!