Friday, November 30, 2012

Jewel of Persia :: Reading to Know Book Club

I didn't really give you all very much warning about this title and I'm sorry for that. It sort of got lost in the shuffle of life! This month's pick was Jewel of Persia, by Roseanna M. White. The discussion is being led by Annette from This Simple Home.

I confess that I (Carrie) did not read this book. As y'all know, I'm not a terribly big fan of Christian fiction (although this is not technically that) so I wasn't sure I wanted to buy a copy of this one. I thought I'd get it from the library and discovered too late that my library doesn't have a copy. Annette graciously let me off the hook for this one but I'm very pleased that she is sharing her thoughts on it.

It should be noted that this isn't termed "Christian fiction" but "Biblical Fiction." I have an ongoing debate in my head over whether or not I like Biblical fiction. Part of me wonders what kind of trouble such books are going to cause in the future, after we've spent time digesting them. I did read Francine Rivers' A Lineage of Grace (linked to my thoughts) and did like it. I just have this question burning in the back of my brain.  For the while, I'm withholding personal judgement. ;) But here are Annette's thoughts on this title which are worth reading through:


When Carrie asked me to choose a book for the Reading to Know Book Club, I deliberated for quite a while. In the end I chose a book that I had been eager to read for a couple of years. As it happens, it was not the typical book club choice, being biblical fiction, but I am glad to have read Jewel of Persia by Roseanna White.

The amazing part of this biblical fiction book is that most of the plot is actual history recorded in the Bible or the ancient Greek text called Histories by Herodutus. This is the way biblical fiction should be - in my opinion. Roseanna has a great Companion Guide where you can read more about how she used the actual events and wove them into a good story.

You likely know the story of Esther, the young Jew who becomes queen of Persia. Jewel of Persia is not so much her story as a fictional character - Kaisa's- story. Kaisa has a chance meeting that leads her to quickly become a concubine of King Xerxes. She quickly becomes the favorite of his many wives and concubines within the harem. This, of course, leads to much friction, especially with the king's own mother...who is determined to eliminate Xerxes' greatest love.

This Jewish girl accepts the terms of her marriage-the emotional upheaval of sharing a husband-though not without some difficulty.  She is also living in the palace among those who worship gods, which leads Kaisa to finally and fully rely upon the one true God.

I really appreciated how the plot's twists and turns are actually based on facts. Of course, historians didn't necessarily include the motives and specific methods behind all actions, so Roseanna White used her imagination to create a fuller story than what is documented as fact.

We were introduced to Esther early in the story as Kaisa's closest childhood friend. She plays a small role throughout the book, and as expected, becomes Queen Esther.

I had been incredibly excited to finally read Jewel of Persia. Unfortunately, I had a rather difficult month and my reading was spotty. I was more than halfway through the book before I could devote an hour (in one sitting) to it. I think this is why I enjoyed the second half of the book, especially the last quarter, so much. While the beginning definitely held my interest, it was harder for me to dive into due to reading in short bursts. I do think it is a good biblical fiction book. (For the record, this was so much better than A Reluctant Queen - another fictional account about Esther that really just irritated me.)

If you have not read Jewel of Persia yet, I would suggest reading the first chapter...and then read the book for yourself. I do recommend it.

One thing that I am still considering is the impact I have on a person by notpraying for them. I thank Roseanna for causing me to ponder this.


I'm rather curious myself. Thank you, Annette, for taking the time to read through it and present us to it. I really appreciated hearing your thoughts.

Did any of you read this book? I hope you'll share your thoughts with us in the comment section below or by writing up a post of your own and sharing the link!

Next month's pick:

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. It is a surprisingly quick read and a holiday classic, so I hope you'll join in! The discussion will be lead by myself. Which is perfect irony since it's Dickens.

Reading to Know - Book Club


Stephanie said...

I did read the book this month! (Shock!) I was able to snatch it for my kindle for very cheap and powered through it earlier in November. Like Carrie, I don't read much Christian fiction. At least anymore ... I used to read quite a bit of it.

As a former history major, I'll say what I liked about the book first. : ) I do enjoy good historical fiction and enjoyed that aspect of it. It reminded me of the series by the Thoenes that I loved in highschool and can't wait to pass on to my girls in quite a few years. I also enjoyed the thread of the main character (and her gentale spirit) and her journey and growth in prayer as she prayed for the king and those that were out to harm her. That encouraged and convicted me.

Truly though, I wasn't a fan of the book being set among the concubines of the king, and that Esther wasn't even a main "player" for the most part. Even though it was somewhat mild because it was a Christian fiction book, I thought there was unneeded sensuality that didn't need to be present and truthfully bothered me. The dark spiritual overtones from their worship of false gods also gave me check. Not because I'm skeptical that those things can/do/did happen, but are those things that *I* need to be reading about.

Just a few of my thoughts after coming off this book. Thank you Annette for sharing with us this month (and I hope you don't mind that I agreed (and didn't) with you). : ) And, I'm looking forward to reading A Christmas Carol, another classic I've never read before.

Shonya said...

Hee, hee, this is why you need a Kindle, Carrie. I got it for just $3. (ducking)

My review is in process. . .

Barbara H. said...

I think I just had too much on my plate this month to try this one, and I am wary of Biblical fiction (though it can be done well if one keeps in mind that it's just the author's imaginative perspective of what a Biblical story is like. Ben-Hur was an excellent form of this type, and Janette Oke and Davis Bunn's recent series about Acts was good, too.)

I like that this focuses on a friend of Esther rather than Esther -- that way there was more freedom in the plot than making up things with a Biblical character, on of the things that fuels my wariness of this genre.

I appreciate Stephanie's perspective, too.

I don't know that I'd ever pick this up but I appreciate the link to the first chapter -- I may come back and look at that when I have time.

Shonya said...

I enjoyed the book overall although I agree with you, Carrie, that people need to read biblical fiction with caution and make sure you know the biblical account well enough to separate truth from fiction.

Having said that, in this particular instance, the book really is more of a historical fiction that happens to incorporate a Bible story. Esther is a surprisingly minor character.

Annette Whipple said...

You know Carrie, maybe you can place this on your someday list...bc it is not typical biblical fiction, especially since Esther is not a main character. Lots of good stuff in it!

Annette Whipple said...

I actually liked that Esther wasn't a key player since I want my main impression of her to be from the Bible, but I knew that before I read it. Yes, there was a bit more sensuality than I prefer. I'm glad you enjoyed it over all!

Bluerose said...

I started reading this one, but I'm so uncomfortable with Biblical fiction that I didn't give it much of a chance, to be honest. Once I figured out how much I disliked the fictionalization of a very real person from God's Word, I kind of closed my mind to any and all Biblical fiction. From some of the comments so far, maybe I should have given it a better chance.(?)

BerlinerinPoet said...

Nice to hear your thoughts, Annette. I didn't get to this one. I too am torn on biblical fiction. I decidedly don't like Christian fiction, but there are parts of the Bible that ARE historical accounts about just real people. So, I guess there isn't anything wrong with writing an historical fiction based around someone from the Bible. I would just hope that the author is very careful.
It sounds like this author was so it might be interesting.

Top  blogs