by Brenda Lesley Segal ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 1, 1980
A giant pilaster-bender set in the first century A.D. and reconstructing--through the fictional life of an educated Sadducee beauty--the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem by the Romans and the heroic mass suicide at Masada. Alexandra, daughter to wealthy Samuel ben Harson of the ""distinctly pagan"" city of Caesura, is quite ready to fall in love with intense, urbane Josef ben Matthias--who was born a Sadducee, studied with the Parisees and the esthetic Essenes, and yearns for learning and life in Rome. But in Segal's portrait, Josef Ben Matthias, a.k.a. historian Flavius Josephus, is a traitor, impure and simple, who will direct the deaths of those he commands at Galilee, will seek Roman favors, and will become the tame ""pet"" of the Emperor Vespasian. Alexandra knows nought of this, however, so--after she survives a massacre of her family by Greeks and Syrians in Caesura and is sold into slavery--she is happy to be finally reunited with fiancÃ‰ Josef at the court of Vespasian, who ""stages"" the marriage. Only then does Alexandra learn the extent of Josef's treachery--his callous refusal to aid Jewish prisoners. And, winning her freedom because of her brother's martyred death in the arena, she eventually finds her way to the mountain fortress of Masada, fast becoming the last outpost of resistance to Rome. There she will wed the legendary Zealot Eleasar ben Ya'ar and bear him a son before the final tragedy. The talk is occasionally more jacuzzi than Jerusalem: ""I am not chattel, I am not an object, not a thing that you may have when you want and toss away. . . ."" And there are oversimplified views of both character (hollow, saintly, pragmatic, heroic, etc.) and the political/religious complexities of sectarian Judaic movements of the time. Still--the scenery's lively, the bloodletting is horrific, the pace is swift, the freedom-fighting message is straight-ahead; and, all in all, it's a readable, fearlessly researched, vast (truly vast) swath of popularized ancient tragedies.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1980
Page Count: -
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1980
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