Sunday, December 13, 2009

Samson's Walls - Jud Nirenberg

Samson's Walls
Jud Nirenberg
Paul Mould Publishing
Publishing Date: December 2009?
ISBN: 9781586901028

This is what I was sent from Carol Fass Publicity as the offer of the book for me to review (Copied and pasted from the initial e-mail):

Jud Nirenberg, as an organizer of human and civil rights efforts, has seen first-hand the destructive forces of inter-ethnic violence. His experiences color a dark vision of one of the Old Testament's most powerful stories in his new novel, SAMSON'S WALLS.

the United States tries once more to draw Israeli and Arab leaders to the negotiation tables, SAMSON'S WALLS shows readers a much older view of the same region. Binding the psychology of its characters to the socio-political context of ancient Canaan, the novel breathes life into Samson, Delilah and others who struggle to survive and to connect with others in a world full of divisiveness and violence.
In a Canaan where Philistines and Hebrews vie for dominance, it is important to know one's place. Samson is isolated in his, trapped by unusual rules and expectations. He was promised to his parents by an angel, destined to grow into a great man and make his people strong. Raised with Philistines for playmates, he aches to be a part of their world. At marrying age, he chooses a Philistine wife. When his new family denies him the acceptance he craves, he releases years of frustration and loneliness in blood.

Samson goes into hiding, seeking to make peace with his wife's people. Other young Hebrews soon join him, each with their own reasons for rebellion. Even while longing for peace, Samson leads this growing army. He is trapped by his successes and grows in fame and power, taking enemy territory. He is alone.

He tastes love when he meets Delilah, the unlikely prostitute-queen of a village in no-man's land. She is the opposite of the clannish divisions he hates, with unclear ethnic origins and leading a mixed community. They become intimate as Philistine spies gather around them. Samson and Delilah are ensnared in Samson's fight to fulfill his own heart's need despite his tribe's and God's expectations.

SAMSON'S WALLS is now in pre-production as an opera, to be initially performed in 2010 in Washington, DC. Music is being composed by Gregg Martin, with Nirenberg consulting on the libretto. See for more information.

A Kindle version of the novel is available through Amazon, through Oak Tree Books. The paperback will also be available through Amazon and in select bookstores.
Now I've finished reading the book, it's December and I've been searching Amazon to find Samson's Walls there. All that comes up is the Kindle edition.

I've used the e-mail for the blurb for another reason as well: the copy of the book I was sent didn't have a jacket blurb for me to use, and not finding it on Amazon, I couldn't use that source either.

I have to say, I liked the story idea, although there were things I felt could have been fleshed out more, such as Samson's father and Delilah's motivations. Admittedly, I'm not overly familiar with the base story in the Bible, and maybe all that is made clearer there. There were just a few things brought up that made me go "what?" and then nothing more was made of that point, even though it seemed like something that could have been important.

Samson's Walls definitely caught my attention and kept it though, not letting me put the book down for any other books. I'm a fan of historical fiction, and this was a good one. The mix of groups, cultures and peoples worked to set up a vibrant and conflicted world, which fits with the story, and with what I know of the history of the era from reading textbooks.

It might be helpful for a reader to brush up on the biblical story of Samson and Delilah before reading this. At the least, it'll give you a shape for the story, to which Nirenberg will be adding colour and texture to the characters and the settings.

According to the publicity blurb I got sent, the story is going to be made into a theatrical/operatic production. That should be interesting to see!

Overall, I liked Samson's Walls quite a bit, but it's not going to be one of my favorite books of the year. Regardless, it was a good, but shortish read. If bible-based historical fiction is something you enjoy though, I'll recommend it.

Edited to add on January 29, 2010: The paperback version of the book is now available, and I've linked to the page for it.

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