Mezzowriter's ReadWriter Blog

Reading, Writing, and The Search for Buried Gems of Literature

What I’m Reading #20: Salome March 20, 2010

I started this last night after finishing Resurrection Men.  After the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 9th.  I was intrigued with the idea of this book.  My only real familiarity with the story of Salome is the tale of the young seductress who danced the dance of the 7 veils and demanded the head of John the Baptist.  Which, actually was popularized by the Strauss opera of the same name.  I was really looking forward to reading this one…

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Salome by Beatrice Gormley

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2007

Courtesy of Amazon.com:

From Booklist

This gets off to a rocky start, not surprisingly, because to set the stage, Gormley must explain the convoluted relationships of Salome and her mother, Herodias, to the male descendents of Herod the Great. But the author soon finds her footing. She fleshes out the story of Salome (who danced with seven veils and then demanded the head of John the Baptist), showing the teenager as the daughter of a willful woman, a girl caught up in the palace intrigue and religious zeal, as^B she tries to define herself and her beliefs. Interspersed chapters tell some of the story from the viewpoint of John the Baptist, who calls for repentance, even from the ruling class. This patterns itself on recent adult books about biblical women, such as Marek Halter’s Canaan trilogy, which begins with a novel about Sarah (even the cover of Salome is reminiscent). Like those books, this succeeds in bringing lightly sketched biblical characters and original supporting characters vividly to life. There are some shocking scenes, but Gormley shapes them responsibly, and they bolster a long-ago story that resonates today. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Strengths: I always enjoy reading stories that are new versions of old tales or legends.  This was no exception.  Gormley builds a new persona for Salome, that of a young girl that becomes the unwitting victim of the schemes of adults.  She feels human.  This is one of the few situations where I read a book knowing FULL WELL what the outcome will be but yearning to read it again anyway, if only for the new spin or new details.  While certain parts of the story are gruesome, Gormley avoids graphic depictions of it, although I’m not sure if it’s lack of ability to do so or a concern for her audience that keeps her from sharing it.  Regardless, the descriptions aren’t necessary.  Salome begins as an innocent child and the reader feels her pain with her.  Nicely written.

Potential Flaws: I do to some extent agree with the Booklist review:  I did feel that the book had a somewhat slow, ponderous start.  But I kept going because I was so interested in finding out what Gormley would add to the story.  The one thing that REALLY bothered me was the cover.  It’s beautiful, yes.  Quite stunning.  But…I know Salome was supposed to have been a Roman Jew.  The girl on this cover has a decidedly NORDIC look about her.  The more I look at it, the more that bothers me.  Maybe someone can shed some light on this.

My Rating:

An interesting new angle, with a very human heroine.  A little bit slow at the start, but well worth pushing through.

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