The Song of Hannah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
Published by: Penguin Group
Published on: August 2005
Page Count: 304
Genre: Historical Fiction / Biblical Fiction
My Reading Format: Review copy sent to me by the author
Available Formats: Paperback, eBook
Challenge Fulfillment: This novel meets one of the criteria for the What’s in a Name? 3 challenge that I joined this year. Click here for more information.
Synopsis from the Publisher
In the tradition of the international bestseller The Red Tent comes a beautiful, sexy novel featuring Hannah, one of the most well-known and beloved heroines of the Old Testament. Hannah and Pninah, once close childhood friends, become rivals for the attention of Elkanah, the man who has married them both. Pninah, passionate and independent, easily bears Elkanah many children, but bitter that he has taken her friend as a second wife, seeks fulfillment with her own secret lover. Hannah, the epitome of goodness and grace, remains completely devoted to her husband, but remains childless for many years, until a promise to God brings her the son she has yearned for. Despite their differences, these two women must learn to live together, protecting their own interests as well as each other’s, while sharing not only the love of their husband, but that of Hannah’s son Samuel, who will become one of the great prophets of the Jewish people.
When I read my first biblical novel by Eva Etzioni-Halev, The Triumph of Deborah, I was pleasantly surprised by how human the characters were an how much I grew to care for them. Deborah was such a strong and noble woman and the writing made me interested in a story in the Bible that I wouldn’t have otherwise given much thought. While it took me about a year to pick up my second novel by the author, I was looking forward to that same experience. In The Song of Hannah, I found that Etzioni-Halev’s writing is just as strong and compelling. Her passion for the lives of biblical women is clear and easy to catch. While Hannah’s story did not touch me in the same way, this novel held my interest throughout and shed light on the life of Samuel.
Unlike with Deborah, I didn’t really connect with or like Hannah. She may very well have believed that she had a special purpose from God. While it seems evident that the mother of Samuel did, how can you believe that God would want you to become the second wife of your best friend’s husband? I never really “got” Elkanah’s draw for Hannah. I never really cared for him that much, even though he did right by Pninah. God may very well have a purpose for everyone and there may be special people called from among us to do incredible things. Hannah and Elkanah felt more like God working around his people than through them.
Instead, it was Pninah who made this novel for me. She found herself in one unenviable situation after the other. Once she stopped being the victim of Hannah’s destiny, she became stronger in her times of sorrow and humiliation. I wanted so much more for her and applauded her when she took her life in her hands and did what made her happy. Whether she made the right choice, she took control over her life and relied on herself regardless of the consequences.
My Final Thoughts
Traditionally, Hannah is viewed as one of the Bible’s heroines. What I liked the most about this novel, whether it was intended or not, was seeing behind a saint’s mask. Pninah may not have been an actual historical person, but her story highlighted precisely the damage that can be caused to those around one who believes he or she is especially blessed by God. That made this novel more interesting than if showed Hannah only in a righteous light.
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