cover image Salome


Beatrice Gormley, . . Knopf, $15.99 (274pp) ISBN 978-0-375-93908-2

In this evocative novel based on biblical events, Gormley (C.S. Lewis: The Man Behind Narnia ) fleshes out the beguiling story of Salome that has captivated artists and writers for centuries. Readers meet Salome, granddaughter to King Herod of Judea (the one whose actions brought about the celebration of Passover), at age 14, dreaming of becoming a dancer in the Temple of Diana in Rome. Soon her uncle Antipas visits and woos her mother, Herodias, away from Salome's father, Herod Junior, to begin a new life in Judea. As the novel progresses, Salome begins to develop into an independent-minded, if still uncertain, young woman, drawn to those who live principled lives. The tragedy unfolds when "John the Baptizer" condemns the marriage of Herod and Herodias as adulterous, provoking the wrath of Salome's self-absorbed mother. Gormley's retelling weaves a plausible and harrowing description of how in one fateful night Salome becomes a vessel of her mother's avaricious desires. Salome remains a sympathetic character as she repents her part in the beheading of John the Baptist, and is redeemed through her generous acts. Gormley subtly depicts the larger forces at work (e.g., just before John is led to his execution, he learns that his cousin, Yeshua of Nazareth, is "the One Who Is to Come," and goes peacefully to his death). The author's rendering of Salome's reflection on the events are appropriately prophetic: "Maybe, in years to come, the story of the Baptizer's death would be the only thing that anyone remembered about me." Ages 12-up. (Apr.)