Review: The Book of Esther by Emily Barton


The Book of Esther by Emily Barton

Publisher: The Duggan Books

Author Bio

Book Info

Synopsis: (from Goodreads):

Eastern Europe, August 1942. The Khazar kaganate, an isolated nation of Turkic warrior Jews, lies between the Pontus Euxinus (the Black Sea) and the Khazar Sea (the Caspian). It also happens to lie between a belligerent nation to the west that the Khazars call Germania—and a city the rest of the world calls Stalingrad.

After years of Jewish refugees streaming across the border from Europa, fleeing the war, Germania launches its siege of Khazaria. Only Esther, the daughter of the nation’s chief policy adviser, sees the ominous implications of Germania’s disregard for Jewish lives. Only she realizes that this isn’t just another war but an existential threat. After witnessing the enemy warplanes’ first foray into sovereign Khazar territory, Esther knows she must fight for her country. But as the elder daughter in a traditional home, her urgent question is how.

Before daybreak one fateful morning, she embarks on a perilous journey across the open steppe. She seeks a fabled village of Kabbalists who may hold the key to her destiny: their rumored ability to change her into a man so that she may convince her entire nation to join in the fight for its very existence against an enemy like none Khazaria has ever faced before.

The Book of Esther is a profound saga of war, technology, mysticism, power, and faith.

Rating: 4 Stars

My Review:

Wow, this book was epic.  Talk about dense and heroic, this book has it all.  Feminism, religious beliefs, sexuality, mysticism, adventure, fantasy, family strife, slavery, and steampunk all rolled into one amazing book.  This is an alternative reality of WW2, where the Khazars are still in power and women are not allowed to read or become educated.  This is the story of Esther, who decides that it is her destiny to save the Jewish population from Germania and the only way she sees to do this is to become a man.  She travels, with her slave brother, to the Kabbalists, to request that she be made a man so that she can save her country and her people.

What I Loved About The Book of Esther:

  • Feminism and religion and how one girl decides that just because she is a woman in a patriarchal society, she can still be who she is and save her people.
  • Loved the questions about faith, existence, and what it means to have a conscience, to pray, or to “be alive” (ie: Golems and prayer).
  • The sexual growth of Esther and her questions of love and desire.
  • The questions of slavery and how Esther comes to view her brother, Itakh, who is a slave in her father’s house.
  • The questions of faith and religion, especially since I am not very familiar with the Jewish faith.

What I Didn’t Like so Much:

  • The book is very dense and it took me a long time to finish the book.
  • You really needed the glossary in the beginning to understand what is going on as there is a lot of Hebrew words used.

Overall, this book is definitely worth a read.  Despite the density of the book, it was never boring or slow.  It was a book that you cannot just skim through.  You will want to read every single word on every single page so that you don’t miss a thing.  Great book!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: The Windfall by Diksha Basu

Book Review blog post 2 (1)

The Windfall by Diksha Basu

Publisher: Crown

Author Bio

Book Info

Synopsis: (From Goodreads): For the past thirty years, Mr. and Mrs. Jha’s lives have been defined by cramped spaces, cut corners, gossipy neighbors, and the small dramas of stolen yoga pants and stale marriages. They thought they’d settled comfortably into their golden years, pleased with their son’s acceptance into an American business school. But then Mr. Jha comes into an enormous and unexpected sum of money, and moves his wife from their housing complex in East Delhi to the super-rich side of town, where he becomes eager to fit in as a man of status: skinny ties, hired guards, shoe-polishing machines, and all.

The move sets off a chain of events that rock their neighbors, their marriage, and their son, who is struggling to keep a lid on his romantic dilemmas and slipping grades, and brings unintended consequences, ultimately forcing the Jha family to reckon with what really matters..

My Review:

I gave The Windfall by Diksha Basu 4 out of 5 stars.  Overall, this was an enjoyable and entertaining read with lots of cultural references to a culture (Indian) that I am not very familiar with.  I cannot speak about the accuracy of the references, but I can say that the descriptions of life, love, relationships, family, and friendships in India, were well written and beautifully portrayed.

The story centers on the Jha family, Mr. Jha, Mrs. Jha, and Rupak, in a rags to riches type of situation.  The Jha family is solidly middle class Indian, living in Delhi.  Mr. Jha sells a dotcom company in the United States and becomes very wealthy.  Mr. Jha decides to move his family to a wealthy part of Delhi and lots of situations ensue.

There is a large cast of supporting characters that are all quite interesting and well developed.  There is Mrs. Ray, a young widow, finding love as an adult, Mr. and Mrs. Gupta, who are the meddling neighbors, who appear jealous of the Jha’s newly found riches.  The Chopra’s are the new neighbors in the rich neighborhood that the Jha’s move to.  There is also Rupak Jha, who is studying in New York and attempting to find himself amid the chaos of new wealth, teenage angst, and battling coming to terms with the two worlds in which he lives in.  I found the supporting characters much more interesting at times, than the Jha’s.

Throughout the story, it appears that no one is quite comfortable in their own skin, with the exception of Mrs. Ray.  I would describe this as a coming of age story for all the characters (even though most are adults in their 50’s).  Each character is attempting to deal with the wealth that has befallen them, each in different ways.  Mrs. Jha would rather change nothing and remain in the neighborhood that she has raised her family in. Mr. Jha feels the need to ensure that everyone knows that he is now wealthy and has finally made it.  Rupak cannot decide what he wants to do with his life and is in constant battle to please his family and his girlfriend without considering what would make him happy.

Overall, this book has great entertainment value and if you enjoy reading about other cultures, then you would enjoy this book.  The character development is excellent and the descriptions of day to day life in India are rich and colorful.

“I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.”