Tuesday 21 April 2020

Publication Day Review ~ The Book of Longing by Sue Monk Kidd

๐ŸŒ ๐ŸŒ  Happy Publication Day ๐ŸŒ ๐ŸŒ 

Tinder Press
21 April 2020

My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book

In her mesmerizing new novel, Sue Monk Kidd brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman called Ana.

Ana is a rebellious young woman, a gifted writer with a curious, brilliant mind, who writes secret narratives about the neglected and silenced women around her. Raised in a wealthy family in Galilee, she is sheltered from the brutality of Rome's occupation of Israel. Ana is expected to marry an elderly widower to further her father's ambitions, a prospect that horrifies her. A chance encounter with the eighteen-year-old Jesus changes everything: his ideas and his passion are intoxicating.

Taking Ana on a journey she could never have imagined, The Book of Longings is a glorious evocation of a time and a place where astounding events unfolded, and of one woman's fate when she fights to make her voice heard.

What did I think about it..

When I discovered that one of my favourite author's had taken an altogether different turn in her latest novel, I must admit that I was filled with more than a little trepidation, whilst at the same time eagerly waiting until I could read the Book of Longings for myself.

Imaging the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth is never going to be easy, or without contention, influenced as we are by the bible stories we have come to accept as the definitive version, but who's to say that Jesus didn't meet a young woman and decide to make her his wife? Brought up in a wealthy family in Galilee, Ana, is a rather interesting young woman who refuses to conform to what society expects of her.  Whether this is how young noble Galilean women would have behaved is an interesting conundrum as Ana's feisty personality certainly makes for lively reading. Ana's arranged marriage to a much older man horrifies her but then an opportunistic meeting in the market place with a charismatic young man, called Jesus, steers Ana's life in a very different direction.

The logistics of living though a time of political upheaval is captured in stern detail which contrasts beautifully against the daily domesticity of life in Nazareth with Jesus and his family. And whilst the character of Jesus is fairly central, he is not the focus of this novel, this is, most definitely, Ana's story, her determined bravery, her undisputed strength of will are all so pivotal to the way in which her imagined role in the drama eventually unfolds.

I think what's so captivating about this story is the utter believability of it. The historical setting feels authentic to the point of making you feel feel like you are actually there alongside the characters as they go about their lives, feeling the heat, brushing away the dust, and experiencing the sheer unpredictability of living in a time, which we feel we know well, and yet, really, we know nothing at all of the intimacy of daily life in Nazareth in 17-27 AD.

Beautifully written historical fiction takes us into a past that we can only imagine in our dreams. The Book of Longings has an intimacy and a delicate strength which I found quite captivating.

The Book of Longings is published in hardback by Tinder Press on the 21 April 2020

Sue Monk Kidd’s first novel, THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES, spent 2.5 years on the New York Times bestseller list, and has sold over 8 million copies worldwide. THE MERMAID CHAIR and THE INVENTION OF WINGS each went to No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and stayed on the list for many months. THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES was long-listed for the Orange Prize (now the Women’s Prize for Fiction), and was turned into an award-winning film. Sue is also the author of several acclaimed non-fiction books including the New York Times bestseller TRAVELLING WITH POMEGRANATES, co-written with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor. Sue lives in North Carolina with her husband Sandy.

Twitter @suemonkkidd #TheBookofLongingg


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