I AM BATHSHEBA by L.J.  Minx

I AM BATHSHEBA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The biblical story of King David and Bathsheba, recast as an erotic drama.

As a young girl, Bathsheba is willful, defiant, and precociously curious about her burgeoning sexuality. She instinctively rebels against the patriarchal tyranny of traditional Jewish law, which she sees as leaving women as the voiceless disciples of men. She leaves home to find her grandmother, Mother Malka, a kind of erotic priestess who has an underground dungeon. Mother Malka not only mentors her in the carnal arts, but also tells her that the religious tradition in which she was raised is false—blasphemies that Bathsheba finds exhilarating. Mother Malka prophesizes that Bathsheba will become the lover of royalty, but the young woman’s parents arrange for her to marry Uriah, a dour man obsessed with his military duties. But when he goes off to war, she begins a sexual entanglement with King David—a torrid affair that eventually leaves Bathsheba pregnant. King David arranges for Uriah to remain at war; it’s a move that’s tantamount to an assassination, and a sinful transgression for which he’s deeply ashamed. But he nonetheless marries Bathsheba, and the couple have a son, Solomon. When Solomon grows into an adult, he’s less interested in erotic enjoyment than in his princely obligations. Bathsheba, however, selects a young virgin, Abishag, to become her sexual disciple, just as she was mentored by Mother Malka. In this way, Abishag becomes an instrument of Solomon’s future sexual emancipation—a process that first requires her to experience her own.

Debut author Minx tells this entire story through diary excerpts, quickly shifting perspectives to allow all the main characters to speak for themselves. This recasting of the biblical tale is fiercely imaginative, transforming a story about a woman’s helplessness into one of personal empowerment and feminine exaltation. Also, Minx’s creativity is fearless—she never shies away from interpretations that flirt with what some might call sacrilege. For example, King David enjoys a passionate, if chaste, relationship with his best friend, Jonathan, that allows him to tap into his yearning for sexual submission. Far from being depicted monochromatically as an imperious king, preying upon vulnerable women, he’s revealed as someone who feels exasperatingly imprisoned within a man’s body. Minx’s descriptions of sex, though, can be more comic than dramatic—euphemisms for sexual organs, such as “lily, “bulbs,” and “petals,” drain the drama from many sexually charged passages. Also, she often expresses the inner monologues of her characters in a naïve, bowdlerized language that conflicts with the transgressions and taboos she describes. For example, as Bathsheba is initiated into the pleasures of submission, she thinks: “I’m ready for anything....I hope he enjoys this as much as I do.” At other points, the efforts to be shocking devolve into bewildering weirdness. While questioning Abishag, for example, Bathsheba resorts to peculiar interrogation techniques: “The Queen tore her blouse open and commanded, ‘Now suck them and choke. Choke and swear you are telling me the truth!’ ”

A wildly inventive but sometimes comical erotic novel.

Pub Date: Feb. 11th, 2018
Page count: 437pp
Publisher: BookBaby
Program: Kirkus Indie
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