Book Reviews

Book Review: The Book of V.: A Novel, by Anna Solomon

The Book of V.: A Novel,

by Anna Solomon

Publication: Henry Holt & Co; May 5, 2020

book of vAbout:

Lily is a mother and a daughter. And a second wife. And a writer, maybe? Or she was going to be before she had children. Now, in her rented Brooklyn apartment, she’s grappling with her sexual and intellectual desires, while also trying to manage her roles as a mother and a wife in 2016.

Vivian Barr seems to be the perfect political wife, dedicated to helping her charismatic and ambitious husband find success in Watergate-era Washington D.C. But one night he demands a humiliating favor, and her refusal to obey changes the course of her life—along with the lives of others.

Esther is a fiercely independent young woman in ancient Persia, where she and her uncle’s tribe live a tenuous existence outside the palace walls. When an innocent mistake results in devastating consequences for her people, she is offered up as a sacrifice to please the King, in the hopes that she will save them all.

In Anna Solomon’s The Book of V., these three characters’ riveting stories overlap and ultimately collide, illuminating how women’s lives have and have not changed over thousands of years.

**My Review**

When I saw this book on NetGalley, I immediately requested it because first of all, who doesn’t love how Esther shakes things up in the Bible and secondly, it just sounded completely unique and different. After reading over this for 3 days (and I never, ever take 3 days to read a book), I have mixed feelings. 

The Book of V. is told from the POVs of Esther during the biblical times, Vivian (vee), a Senator’s wife during the Nixon era, and Lily, a wife and mother living in Brooklyn in 2016. The basic premise is 3 different women from 3 different times, struggling to come to terms with their lives and their roles as women. Their individual stories do eventually start to intersect in certain ways, but good Lord, it was a long time coming.

I will say that Esther’s story was, by far, the most interesting of the novel. Like the good Presbyterian that I am, I have studied Esther, taken workshops at various churches over the years, and am familiar with her story. Anna Solomon’s re-telling of Esther was intriguing, entertaining, and honestly – the only thing that motivated to stick with this one. I enjoyed Vee’s story also, despite the fact that she was married to the biggest ass of all time. Vee’s character was incredibly honest, sometimes, uncomfortably so. But I loved her psychological warfare in her mind about the balance/unbalance of power in her marriage. Lily’s story, the one closest to our present, was awful. In one of her earlier chapters, there’s this ongoing narrative about her bratty young daughter repeatedly taking off her shirt and flushing it down the toilet, while Lily does nothing because she doesn’t want to scare her child. She pretty much lost me at that point. If you don’t want to spank your child fine, but repeated tantrums, stripping, throwing, and flushing of clothes deserves some sort of correction. Otherwise, quit whining about it and devoting pages about it. 

For readers that enjoy the history of Esther or are curious about it, you may very well enjoy this book because Esther’s chapters are addictive, raw, and moving. Solomon’s writing is outstanding from beginning to end, but Esther’s chapters truly shine. Vee’s chapters are also dripping with a raw honesty that is, at times, almost uncomfortable. But I liked her part in the novel. I could not relate or find interest in the chapters about Lily. The only thing I could think of that made her character relevant in this story was that she was married to an asshole, but I could be wrong. 

My overall thoughts are that The Book of V. is a very well-written novel with regards to her imagery and language, but it took me forever to unpack it all. This is my first time reading anything from this author, but I will definitely give her another shot if the opportunity presents itself. I can’t say I loved this novel a whole, nor can I say I disliked it as a whole. Nevertheless, it is a unique and fascinating plot. 

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. 


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