Thursday, March 12, 2009

REVIEW: The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy

Triumph of Deboray coverGenre: Fiction (Biblical)
Pub Date: March 2008, A Plume Book
Format: Trade Paperback, 368 pages
Source/FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received and my opinions are my own.
In ancient Israel, war is looming. Deborah, a highly respected leader, has coerced the warrior Barak into launching a strike against the neighboring Canaanites. Against all odds he succeeds, returning triumphantly with Asherah and Nogah, daughters of the Canaanite King, as his prisoners. But military victory is only the beginning of the turmoil, as a complex love triangle develops between Barak and the two princesses.
Deborah, recently cast off by her husband, develops a surprising affinity for Barak. Yet she struggles to rebuild her existence on her own terms, while also groping her way toward the greatest triumph of her life.
Filled with brilliantly vivid historical detail, The Triumph of Deborah is the absorbing and riveting tale of one of the most beloved figures in the Old Testament, and a tribute to feminine strength and independence.


I was pretty excited when Ms. Etzioni-Halevy contacted me regarding her book, The Triumph of Deborah. I had read a few positive reviews about it and was interested in trying out Biblical fiction, something I'd never read before. I wasn't too familiar with the story of Deborah, so before reading this book I read the two chapters in which she appears in The Bible, Judges 4 and 5. There wasn't too much there, other than what I consider a summary of the battle that Deborah convinces Barak to lead. So I was curious to see how the story would be fleshed out, and Etzioni-Halevy certainly does that, with rich detail.

The way the novel opens really grabbed me--two women, Deborah and Asherah, both waiting to find out the outcome of the war, but each wanted a very different result. Back and forth between the two perspectives we are taken, which I thought was a great way to open the story. Her writing style flows nicely and is easy to read, while still remaining relatively true to the language of the time. I was very impressed with the detail that Ms. Etzioni-Halevy was able to paint in this book, while still in keeping with the story from The Bible. (I don't want to say too much more than that, for fear of giving away spoilers.)

That being said, there were a couple of things about this book that disappointed me. I really wish that there had been more focus overall on Deborah--after all, the book leads you to believe she is the primary subject of the story. However, a good many pages are devoted to the love triangle between Barak, Asherah and Nogah. Finally, towards the end of the book we see Deborah in greater detail again, but it seemed very anticlimactic when we were supposed to be reading the story of her triumph. The other thing that bothered me was the amount of graphic detail involving Barak's relationships with Deborah, Asherah and Nogah. I had read another reviewer that felt the same way I did--this no longer was a book I could lend to my mother, which I had originally planned to do. Don't get me wrong, I'm not naive enough to think that sort of behavior couldn't have been going on, but I really didn't need it so thoroughly described--it served as a major detraction for me. An insinuation of the events would have sufficed. So, while I did enjoy the story, my overall excitement of it was dampened by the lack of Deborah's story at times and the graphic portrayal of the romances. I can certainly understand why so many people have enjoyed this book, though--the story is intriguing and beautifully written--even I couldn't really put the book down despite the things I didn't care for.

 3 stars

Other reviews of The Triumph of Deborah:


  1. I've heard mixed reviews on this one but I like how you weighed both positive and negative. The part you included about not being able to lend it to your mom is helpful too.

  2. I really enjoyed this book and reviewed it here:


  3. I see your point about there not being a whole lot about Deborah in the book. I didn't mind the whole love triangle aspect of the story, so I think that's why Deborah's absence didn't bother me much.

    I'm finally getting around to responding to me comments, and I just wanted to let you know I've added your link to my review. Thanks for linking to mine as well. :)

    Diary of an Eccentric


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