Marek Halter, Author , trans. from the French by Howard Curtis. Crown $24 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4000-5272-1

Yet another entry in the burgeoning subgenre of fictional portraits of biblical women (see, for example, Rebecca Kohn's retelling of the story of Queen Esther in The Gilded Chamber , Forecasts, Mar. 15), Halter's novel (the first in a trilogy) adheres to a by now familiar formula: frank sexual and emotional revelations presented against a backdrop of burnished interiors. Halter's Sarah is born Sarai, the daughter of one of the most powerful lords of Ur. At the age of 12, she is pledged in marriage to a man she has never met, and despite the finery of her bridal chamber ("Everything was new.... Linen rakutus as smooth as a baby's skin"), she flees in distress. Dragged back to her father's house, she doses herself with an herbal concoction that leaves her barren and is made a priestess of Ishtar, Ur's goddess of war. Six years later, an encounter with her childhood love, the handsome Abram, furnishes her with the chance she's been waiting for: she escapes with him and joins his nomadic tribe. Her contentment is short-lived, because Abram is called by God to leave his tribe and set out for a new land, whereupon the familiar (but freely adapted) Bible story unfolds. The misery Sarah feels at being barren, the indecent love her nephew Lot expresses for her, her encounter with Pharaoh and her quarrel with Hagar, the slave woman who gives Abram a child, shape the novel's second half. Halter isn't afraid to present headstrong Sarah as bitter in her old age, and his complex portrait of the biblical matriarch gives this solid if predictable novel a dash of freshness. (May 4)

Reviewed on: 04/05/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7393-1167-7
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 206 pages - 978-1-4000-8094-6
Compact Disc - 1 pages - 978-1-4159-0017-8
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4090-8493-8
Hardcover - 481 pages - 978-0-7862-6624-1
Paperback - 325 pages - 978-1-4000-5278-3
Compact Disc - 978-0-7393-1168-4
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