Sunday, September 13, 2009

Book Review: Eve: A Novel of the First Woman

Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Eve: A Novel of the First Woman is just that. It is an expansion on the first few books of Genesis as narrated by Eve and her daughters. Eve's sons however, never act as narrators. I personally believe that this is an attempt on the author's part to maintain the overall feminine voice of the novel. Additionally, the story is told in a series of flashbacks, creating the impression that the reader is actively listening to the story rather than being a passive observer. (Later in the novel however, I did get the distinct feeling that Eve was narrating her view of the story to one of her daughters.)

The majority of the story takes place after Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden, and primarily the length of time leading up to Abel's murder by his brother Cain. At this point in time Eve and her family live alongside a society heavily based upon Akkadia and Babylon. This society provides most of the impetus for the conflict and plot development in the story. Eve's time in Eden is explored as well, mostly for some character development.

As for Eve herself, the author paints a sympathetic picture. Before the Fall, Eve is depicted as sensuous and beautiful. After the Fall she is no less so, but she becomes increasingly lonely and doubtful. Eve continues to have children as her relationship with Adam and her older children falter, for their unconditional affection. Eve wrestles with herself spiritually and is tempted by the neighbouring society's deities.

While the novel does grapple with some thorny theological questions, they appear to be either ignored or dealt with by liberal apologetics. I ultimately felt unsatisfied with this aspect. The author does write in the afterword that many of the questions dealt with in the story may be considered borderline blasphemous in the religious community, and I'm led to believe that the author herself is religious which may explain some of the reluctance.

The afterword that the author includes details her research and some of her choices in writing the story, and I'm grateful for it. There were many points in the book where I wondered why the author made the choices she did and it's very refreshing to have some answers. I do have one nitpick though: while the author acknowledges the two differing accounts of creation in Genesis, there is no inclusion of Lilith in either the narrative or the afterword. While I personally think the inclusion of this rabbinical myth would have been a good source of conflict in the story, it has probably already been done. Ultimately, the choice is the author's anyway.

Eve provides a good mix of history, myth, and legend along with a good exploration of humanity and feminity. Eve also has its rough spots, but I'm willing to let it slide for an author's first novel. Four out of five stars.

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