Excerpt from The Book of V. by Anna Solomon, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Book of V.

by Anna Solomon

The Book of V. by Anna Solomon X
The Book of V. by Anna Solomon
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  • First Published:
    May 2020, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 1, 2021, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jordan Lynch
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Print Excerpt

BROOKLYN

LILY

Esther for Children and Novices

>Close the book now. Close it. Look. The story's simple. Persia, once upon a time. King banishes queen. Queen refuses to come to his party and parade in front of his friends—naked, is what most people think he wanted!—and he sends her away, or has her killed. No one knows. She's gone. Vashti, this is. Her name's Vashti. You know this! And then the king gets sad and wants another wife so he calls for all the maidens to come and win his affections. A maiden? A maiden is a girl. Or a woman. A woman who isn't married. Kind of. Right. And the maidens come and put on lots of makeup and smelly oils. But when it's time for the beauty pageant, the king chooses the maiden who doesn't try too hard, the one with just a dab of lipstick, or whatever they used. Esther. She also happens to be Jewish, though she doesn't mention that. She's very pretty, yes. No, she's not a princess. She's an orphan, with an uncle who looks out for her, but then this uncle also winds up getting her into trouble because he refuses to bow down to the king's minister, and the minister gets mad, really mad, and decides it's time to kill all the Jews. And then things get kind of messy, but the details aren't that important and most of them contradict each other anyway, which is why I'm tired of reading you this book and why we are going to put it away for a while. I know you like it, but I need a break.

Okay, so the new queen winds up being really brave and going to the king without his permission, which is a big no-no—remember what happened to the first queen when she did the opposite? And the new queen asks the king to save her people, and then the king—even though, a few minutes before, he was fine with having all the Jews killed—gets really mad at his minister and has him killed instead. Also, he thinks his minister might like his wife, like Daddy likes Mommy, so that makes him kill him, too.

But I can see this isn't making sense. That's why we're done with the book. It's not simple at all, I don't know why I called it simple, and twice a day for a month is too much—it just is—and we're done. Really all you need to know, and all anyone ever remembers anyway, is that the second queen, Esther, is the hero.

Lily tosses the book out of the girls' bedroom, into the hallway. It's a children's book, the biblical story dumbed down, but still it's convoluted, full of plot holes and inconsistencies. After they're asleep, she'll drop it in the recycling bin, then later, admitting to herself that it won't be recycled, she'll shove it deep into the kitchen trash. Her husband may or may not be home by then. He is deputy director of programs for Rwanda at a major humanitarian aid organization. She is his second wife.

So tomorrow, girls—ushering her daughters into their bunk beds—I'm going to learn to sew, so I can make your costumes for the Purim carnival. Remember? We dress up like the characters and then they act out the story and everyone boos at the bad minister and cheers for Esther? I don't know what happened to Vashti. The book doesn't say. No one knows. Heads on pillows. If you don't want to be Esther, tell me in the morning. Otherwise, you'll be Esther, like all the other girls. Good night! Sweet dreams! No more words tonight! Love you to the moon and back! Eyes closed, mouths closed, stop talking now! Good night!

WASHINGTON, DC

VEE

Royal Preparations

It happened in the days of Nixon—that Nixon who presided over fifty states, from the Florida Keys to the Aleutian Islands. In those days, in the fifth year of Nixon's reign, when the scandal that would undo him was erupting in Washington and beyond, a great, unspoken license was given to any official who was not he. A veil of distraction fell over the capital's swampy fortress and a lustiness took hold, an appetite for drink and women uncommon even among that time and people. It followed that a banquet of minor scandals, insults, and crimes was enjoyed in the town houses of powerful men. There were floor-to-ceiling drapes of heavy velvet, and there were couches of Italian leather on sheepskin rugs. The wineglasses were nearly invisible, the lowballs weighty as a man's fist. The rule for the drinking was, Drink!

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Excerpted from The Book of V. by Anna Solomon. Copyright © 2020 by Anna Solomon. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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