Book Review: A Reluctant Queen

If you could turn one book of the Bible into a love story, which would it be?

Ruth might be your choice, with the whole maiden in distress theme in there. Maybe you prefer the Song of Solomon variety, a little spicy perhaps? Then again, you could argue the whole Bible is a love story, one between Jesus and his bride, the church.

In her latest novel, A Reluctant Queen, Joan Wolf focused on another story, Esther, and she read between the lines of the Biblical story to find the romance between a young Jewish woman and a powerful King.

I love historical fiction, especially set in Biblical times. Lloyd C. Douglas’ The Robe has been one of my favorite books for a long time. So, this book seemed like it was my sort of thing, especially considering that Wolf is an accomplished writer, best known for her Arthurian tale The Road to Avalon (which is now sitting on my nightstand in queue to read).

Wolf demonstrates a strong mastery of the historical fiction genre. She interweaves historical facts with dialogue so as not to bog down the reader and keep a fast pace. To tell the truth, I had a really hard time putting the book down.

What keeps me from giving the book a ringing endorsement is its lack of faithfulness to the Biblical story. As someone who appreciates both secular and Christian historical fiction, I have nothing against setting fictional stories within Biblical contexts. However, there is a line that I don’t like to see crossed, which is the altering of Biblical facts to suit a fictional storyline. I’m fine with authors adding things, since it’s part and parcel of the genre and necessary to fill in significant blanks. But those blanks need to be filled with material that doesn’t negate any part of the Biblical story. I even have a hard time with changing around the sequence of events in the Biblical account. And Wolf does this liberally.

I don’t want to pick at each difference between Wolf’s story and the Biblical account, but suffice it to say that there are many incongruities. Wolf recognizes their existence and in her author’s note, attempts to justify them for reasons of character development and pacing. Even so, this bothers me.

But, as long as you keep the Biblical story nearby, not allowing yourself to adopt Wolf’s version as Truth, I don’t see the harm in enjoying the book. I know I did. Just make sure you read the Biblical version as well, perhaps even at the same time.

So what are your thoughts about using the Bible as source material for historical fiction? What are the appropriate guidelines for it? Is it ever appropriate to fictionalize God’s word? I’d love to hear what my reader AND writer friends think about this, since I know a couple who are writing in this genre.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson publishers and Litfuse Publicity for providing me with a review copy of this book.  If you’d like to win a copy of the book or a brand new Kindle, enter Joan Wolf’s contest, ending June 21.

Published in: on June 11, 2011 at 1:00 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. I like fictional stories based on Bible characters, but I think you ought to create within the biblical framework without distorting historical or scriptural truths. For instance, I’ve always thought it would be interesting to write a fictional story using Huldah as a main character.

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