Second #Readukkah review

December 16, 2015 at 12:06 PM Leave a comment

“How do you give the past a human voice without betraying it or making your reader furiously impatient?” Hilary Mantel asks in the Wall Street Journal. Mantel, author of the Thomas Cromwell novel Wolf Hall, describes what many historical fiction critics and authors have struggled with–how hard it is to strike a balance between setting the tone and keeping a dramatic pace for today’s readers, especially with  dialogue spoken in an earlier age. About halfway through Angels at the Gate I got impatient with the lack of contractions and started speed reading, but I’m glad I wasn’t so furious that I tossed the book aside.

It tells the story of a girl in Abraham’s tribe masquerading as a boy in her father’s caravan, a girl who grows up to become Lot’s wife.

When the caravan first visits Sodom, you can smell the city. The nomads visit at a time when the Dead Sea is belching stench along with the valuable pitch that sustains the city, and the smell lingers and contrasts with the spring celebrations. You feel the wide gulf between life in the city and the nomads’ life. Thorne lends the same sort of visceral realism to the characters, like Lot, whose face comes alive in the book and looms a little too close for comfort.

Although I wished for smoother dialogue and fewer sidetracks, the plot drew me in and the characters, including the saluki Nami, won me over.

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Nine Essential Things, and What’s Been Subtracted Strudel, anyone?

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