cover image Bathsheba


Torgny Lindgren. HarperCollins Publishers, $17.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-06-015963-4

If there are only a few basic plots in the world, the story of David and Bathsheba contains elements of them all: incest and family pride, lust for power and abasement before God, fratricide and fraternal devotion, cunning and guilelessness. In this lush and passionate novel, Lindgren fuses several chapters of the Bible into an epic tale of a conquered woman who outwits her conqueror. Here, Bathsheba alternates advice with flattery, coaxing the king away from the women's room and settling her sons in a chamber next to David's own. It is she who suggests that David take the census that bloodies the land; she who tricks Amnon into sleeping with his half-sister Tamar; she who goads David into sending his now-disgraced son to a sheep-shearing where Absalom will kill him; she who covets Absalom at the cost of his life. Her power grows, and consumes her. As Bathsheba waxes, David wanes: the aging ruler, belly sagging to his thighs, eyes sunken in folds of flesh, bears little resemblance to the doughty slayer of Goliath. The vibrant portraits of these legendary prototypes will send readers scurrying back to their bibles. (May)