Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: Megillat Esther

I recently read Megillat Esther, by JT Waldman.  This is a graphic novel interpretation of the book of Esther.  The author is Jewish, and the pages include calligraphy of the Hebrew text woven in with the English.  The artwork is evocative and moving, and the English translation is accurate, tightly written, and a quick read, though you will find yourself pausing over the artwork again and again.

But even more importantly, the book itself is a retelling of the story with all the bits I never learned in Sunday school.  For example, do you know why the king really dismissed his first wife?  There are tidbits from Jewish tradition, nuances that don't quite make it in the usual English translations, and references to other stories in the Hebrew Scriptures which frame and give context to the story itself.  Details hidden in the artwork hint at the wider setting.

And normally I never suggest this, but this is one of those books where you do have to read the introduction.  It's all of two pages long, but it gives some instructions that you'll need to continue reading the book after a certain point.  It's a fascinating authorial choice, and I hope it doesn't put off too many readers.

I found this book fascinating.  The artwork is not always suitable for very young readers (and neither is the story in the English translation, for that matter- several bits of the Bible are PG-13 or considerably higher) but it wasn't meant to be.  This is a book for teens and adults looking for a better understanding of one of the best known, but least understood, women of the Bible.

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