Summary and book reviews of The Book of V. by Anna Solomon

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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  • Published:
    May 2020, 320 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jordan Lynch
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About this Book

Book Summary

For fans of The Hours and Fates and Furies, a bold, kaleidoscopic novel intertwining the lives of three women across three centuries as their stories of sex, power, and desire finally converge in the present day.

Lily is a mother and a daughter. And a second wife. And a writer, maybe? Or she was going to be, before she had children. Now, in her rented Brooklyn apartment she's grappling with her sexual and intellectual desires, while also trying to manage her roles as a mother and a wife in 2016.

Vivian Barr seems to be the perfect political wife, dedicated to helping her charismatic and ambitious husband find success in Watergate-era Washington D.C. But one night he demands a humiliating favor, and her refusal to obey changes the course of her life―along with the lives of others.

Esther is a fiercely independent young woman in ancient Persia, where she and her uncle's tribe live a tenuous existence outside the palace walls. When an innocent mistake results in devastating consequences for her people, she is offered up as a sacrifice to please the King, in the hopes that she will save them all.

In Anna Solomon's The Book of V., these three characters' riveting stories overlap and ultimately collide, illuminating how women's lives have and have not changed over thousands of years.

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The novel opens with a quote from Elizabeth Cady Stanton: "I have always regretted that the historian allowed Vashti to drop out of sight so suddenly." Why do you think the author chose this quote? What do you think it means in context of what happens in The Book of V.?
  2. The Book of V. is told from the viewpoints of three women, from different time periods and life experiences. Why do you think the author chose to include this diverse [range/collection] of voices? Did you relate more to one woman than the other? Which one, and why? How did this narrative style impact your reading experience?
  3. Before reading, what did you know of the story of Esther from the Old Testament? Why do you think the author chose to incorporate Esther's tale as ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

This is very much a character-driven book with a strong focus on the personal growth and conflicts of Esther, Vee and Lily. Solomon chooses to focus the struggles of all three women around marriage, albeit in very different ways. At their heart, all three stories are about female autonomy—or lack thereof, in Esther's case—and carefully examine how a woman's place and role has changed but in some respects remained the same over the centuries. Featuring three women from societies with different views on feminism creates different endings to the narratives, but the stories still intertwine in unexpected and satisfying ways...continued

Full Review Members Only (670 words).

(Reviewed by Jordan Lynch).

Media Reviews

People Magazine
An absorbing story about desire, power imbalances and the quest for self-determination—a feminist rallying cry born in the private spaces of women’s lives.

Entertainment Weekly
Compulsively readable...blending real history and radical fiction into one enthralling whole.

Shelf Awareness
Moving, surprising, so touchingly detailed and authentic as to seem more real than life...For a novel to offer such delightfully realized characters as well as such taut pacing is a fine accomplishment.

New York Times
[E]ngrossing, highly readable, darkly sexy...Solomon is a truth teller. Her observations of domestic life — rote marital sex, the steady drip of compromise, the sine wave of intimacy and irritation — are unfailingly sharp. She has a way of locating the revelatory moment...The Book of V. is a meditation on female power and powerlessness, the stories told about women and the ones we tell about and to ourselves.

Washington Post
[I]rresistible, sexy and intelligent...[Solomon's] gorgeous, lilting prose vibrates with fight, destabilizing patriarchal norms with questions of power and want, identity and self-determination to timeless and timely results...The Book of V radiates a dynamism that invites rereads and generously keeps giving — challenging and arousing us as it delights.

Booklist
[An] evocative novel…each story line is captivating.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Finely written and often vividly imagined, this is a cerebral, interior novel devoted to the notion of womanhood as a composite construction made up of myriad stories and influences. A bold, fertile work lit by powerful images, often consumed by debate, almost old-school in its feminist commitment.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Solomon connects these stories in a way that's fresh and tantalizing, with fascinating intergenerational discussions about desire, duty, family, and feminism, as well as a surprising, completely believable twist. This frank, revisionist romp through a Bible tale is a winner.

Author Blurb Ann Napolitano, New York Times bestselling author of Dear Edward
The Book of V. is brainy and sexy and roots us so completely in these three women's bodies and lives, that I couldn't put it down. The writing is so brilliant some passages took my breath away, and when I thought I knew where the novel was headed, I was wrong. This novel is a gift, and I highly recommend you read it.

Author Blurb Jane Hamilton, author of The Excellent Lombards
The Book of V. is a marvel. It's a testament to the enduring strength and flexibility of the novel form itself, and a testament to the wisdom, clarity, and boldness of Anna Solomon. She is a remarkable writer who has written an extraordinary book.

Author Blurb Mary Beth Keane, author of Ask Again, Yes
In The Book of V., Anna Solomon reaches across centuries to capture the timeliness and timelessness of being a strong, passionate woman in a world governed by men. How far we've come and yet how many of the battles look the same. I was riveted by this searingly inventive, humane, and honest page-turner of a novel.

Author Blurb Leslie Jamison, New York Times bestselling author of Make it Scream, Make it Burn and The Empathy Exams
Anna Solomon's The Book of V. is a novel as fierce as its heroines, traversing centuries to explore the tentacles of desire and despair that can anchor the psyche or explode it. It's a book that understands how many different women live in every woman: the lover, the mother, the artist, the rebel, the friend, the caregiver, the beast, the survivor. Solomon's imagination is as thrilling as it is nuanced—gripping the senses and the heart at once, telling a story that vibrates with urgency and truth.

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Beyond the Book

Purim

Book of Esther scroll to be read for Purim In The Book of V., Lily is a wife and mother living in modern-day Brooklyn and struggling to find her purpose in life. As she works to manage her relational roles, she is also working to understand her Jewish heritage and particularly the story of Esther, a young Jewish woman in ancient Persia who became queen and used her influence to save her people from being killed. Although Lily finds fault in the overt patriarchy of the story, her two daughters see the young woman as a heroine and demand to hear about her repeatedly as the festival of Purim approaches. Purim, which celebrates Esther's actions, is one of the most important Jewish holidays and includes a number of long-held traditions.

Also known as the festival of lots, Purim is...

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