Paperback, 160 pagesPublished October 30th 2018 by Coach House Books
It’s just another boring summer for our teenaged narrator — until Barbra arrives. An Ethiopian Jew, Barbra was brought to Israel at age five, a part of Operation Solomon, and now our narrator’s well-intentioned father has brought her, as a teen, to their home for the summer. But Barbra isn’t the docile and grateful orphan they expect, and soon our narrator, terrified of her and drawn to her in equal measure, finds himself immersed in compulsive psychosexual games with her, as she binge-drinks and lies to his family. Things go terribly wrong, and Barbra flees. But seven years later, as our narrator is getting his life back on track, with a new girlfriend and a master’s degree in Holocaust Studies underway, Barbra shows up at our narrator’s house once again, her “spiritual teacher” in tow, and our narrator finds his politics, and his sanity, back in question.
Queen Solomon is another masterful take on the politics of sex, race, and power from the author of the Believer Book Award-winning Maidenhead.
The description of this novella only vaguely resembles how it actually reads. What really seems to be happening here is a narration style similar to stream of consciousness, where this budding teenage narrator learns first-hand about sex the summer that Barbra, an Ethiopian Jewish girl of 18, comes to stay with his family for the summer.
There is a lot of crude language, which wouldn’t have bothered me if it come from a more mature mind (the narrator, not the author) and had a meaningful purpose to the narrative. This wasn’t a narrative vehicle I would have driven to deliver the message it intended, but I’m sure that that will be the appeal for some. However, for me, the dialogue seemed stilted and unnatural and the plot was smothered in descriptions. For such a short literary narrative, this book would have been better served with plot than with the often meaningless descriptions that take up, ultimately, pages and pages of space. If you’re looking to jump inside the mind of a Jewish teenage boy (who uses words like tits and cock and “seriously?!” for over 100 pages, you’ve come to the right place. Other than that, I never really got into it and was grateful that Queen Solomon read so quickly. I wouldn’t say that it was a bad book, just not one that’s for me. Definitely more of a “niche” read. The cover art, though, is eye-catching and very striking; that I thought was well-done.**
I received an advance-read copy of this book from the publisher, Coach House Books, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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