Thursday, February 01, 2007

Zipporah by Marek Halter


Set over three thousand years ago, a passionate love story divides an ancient world.

Her name is Zipporah.

A black child, she was found on the shores of the Red Sea, and given a name that meant 'bird'.

But, because of the colour of her skin, no man wanted her as his wife. Then, as she was drawing water at a well, she met a stranger. An outcast like herself, he was a fugitive.

His name was Moses.

A beautiful woman and a generous lover, Zipporah was to share Moses' destiny. Together they set out on an epic journey across the desert to Egypt, where they would confront the Pharaoh and beg him to set their people free.

But Zipporah's love for Moses condemned her too: for among the Hebrews of the Exodus her status as a black woman was to have catastrophic consequences.


This is the second book in the Canaan trilogy by Marek Halter, following on from Sarah, and once again the author is focusing on an important figure in the Old Testament, Moses, and his wife Zipporah.

As far as the characters go, Halter made some quite interesting choices in relation to Zipporah - there is very little known of her in the Old Testament, other than how she met Moses at a well, and that she is the daughter of Jethro. In this book, Halter chooses to make her a Cushite, so that she is much darker skinned than the people around her, and makes her the adopted daughter of Jethro - the daughter of his heart - therefore causing jealousy within her adopted household. This also has the effect of making her a stranger among the people, a theme that is mentioned more than once, particularly with Moses' experiences initially when he comes to live with the Midianites, and then later again when he returns to Egypt. It also introduces the spectre of racial issues and of familial disharmony that is echoed later as Zipporah meets Moses' true family.

The initial meetings and courtships of Moses and Zipporah were well written, and the chemistry between the two was quite strong but this was not strong enough to carry the whole book.

There were several things in this novel that did not quite sit right with me - for example Moses' and Zipporah's relationships seemed kind of unusual because they were not married until quite some time after they had had children, and also in the events at the conclusion of the novel. It also seemed that the author was trying too hard to keep on trying to mirror Zipporah's experiences in Moses' life and vice versa.

I wondered at times when reading this story if at times the novelist couldn't quite decide if he was really telling Moses' story or if he was more interested in Zipporah's story - not that those two aspects were incompatible - but just that the two threads didn't seem to be connected all that well, particularly in the second half of the book when the story seemed to lose a bit of steam in some ways, with some parts of the story being quite simplistic at times.

I guess the bonus in taking the characters like the women of the Old Testament is that so little is known about them, so there is a fair amount of freedom to write stories within the restrictions of the little that we do know of them, and the well known stories of their men folk.

Once again, reading this story did make me want to pull out the trusty Bible, which last saw light of day when I read Sarah, and have a quick read to see what was known and what was completely fiction.

For me, whilst this book was interesting, it wasn't great, and I think that there were some issues with pacing, and tying the major strands of story together. There is one more book in the Canaan trilogy, called Lilah, and I am sufficiently interested to want to read it. Hopefully there won't be the same kind of issues in the next book.

Rating 3.5/5

Edited to correct an error...thanks Zeek!

8 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review. I have looked at these books a few times at the bookstore but hadn't quite convinced myself to buy them. Maybe some day I will, but sounds like I shouldn't rush to put them at the top of my TBR pile!

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  2. Sarah was better thn Zipporah, but if you are interested in Biblical fiction the best book of those that I have read is definitely The Red Tent, which is a great read.

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  3. Great review. I'll have to pick up The Red Tent.

    Heather
    www.thelibraryladder.blogspot.com

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  4. I really liked the Red Tent and now have my eye out for these.

    Eh hem.

    "other than how she met Joseph at a well,"

    You meant Moses, Right? :P

    (Had me thinking for a sec on that one! LOL!)

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  5. Oh and the Bible does say she's Ethiopian, or Cushite- same thing. It's mentioneed because Moses's siblings (Aaron & Miriam) spoke against him because he married her.

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  6. Whoops...how she met Moses! I actually tried to read through and see where Aaron and Miriam spoke out against her but couldn't find it!

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  7. LOL! Well here's where my geekiness comes out- Numbers 12.

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  8. Ah, I read Exodus looking for it!

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