Wednesday, March 19, 2008
REVIEW: Megillat Esther, by J.T. Waldman. Jewish Literature Challenge, 5 of 5
Megillat Esther, by J.T. Waldman. Published 2005 by the Jewish Publication Society.
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I'm still here. It's been a busy week but I should have some new reviews soon.
For my last entry in the Jewish Literature Challenge series, I chose a graphic novel-style interpretation of the Megilla, the story of how Queen Esther saved the Jews from slaughter by King Achashverosh and his advisor, Haman, in ancient Persia. This story forms the basis for the Jewish holiday Purim, which begins tomorrow. Not your standard children's-book interpretation, this version of Esther's story is full of intrigue, conspiracies and reversals, not the least of which is the physical reversal of the text which occurs halfway through. At this point, the reader needs to flip the book over and read it right to left, all the better for the Hebrew but possibly jarring for readers unfamiliar with reading Hebrew or (in my case) Japanese manga. But I digress.
This Megillat Esther is a treasure- a beautiful and thoughtful retelling of the Book of Esther. The story is told in English and beautifully-lettered Hebrew, and includes rabbinic footnotes and a bibliography, as well as a section explaining the importance of citations and explaining the term midrash, the orally-told stories that expand on the Hebrew Bible. This section seems aimed at children, but this is no children's book. Waldman's rich, detailed black and white illustrations reward careful attention and a slow, deliberate pace, and there is some racy sexual content and innuendo which would make the book much more suitable for older teens and adults interested in Judaism and/or graphic novels.
Waldman's Megillat Esther is a real treat. I had a hard time tracking down a copy through my local public library system, but it's worth a read, at Purim time or anytime.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive a copy of this book for review from the publisher.