Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lion's Honey by David Grossman

Samson the hero; a brave warrior, leader of men and Nazarite of God? Or a misfit given to whoring and lust, who failed to fulfil his destiny? In Lion's Honey, award-winning writer David Grossman takes on one of the most vivid and controversial characters in the Bible. Revisiting Samson's famous battle with the lion, his many women and his betrayal by them all - including the only one he ever loved - Grossman gives us a provocative new take on the story and its climax, Samson's final act of death, bringing down a temple on himself and 3000 Philistines.

In exhilarating and lucid prose, Grossman reveals the journey of a single, lonely, tortured soul who never found a true home in the world, who was uncomfortable in his very body and who, some might say, was the precursor of today's suicide bombers.

I originally added this book to my TBR list because it is part of the Myths series published by Canongate. Other books that I have read from this series are Dream Angus by Alexander McCall Smith (about the Celtic god of dreams and love) and Weight by Jeanette Winterson which is a retelling of the story of Atlas and Hercules. Given that those were both retellings, albeit with a bit of modern day storytelling added in Dream Angus, I was expecting another retelling when I read this book. That is not what I got.

If I was to be the person cataloguing this book I am not sure that I would have even called it fiction. The first few pages of the book are the story of Samson, taken directly from the King James Version of the Bible. I guess I was a little surprised to see that, but then again, it isn't terribly long so I though 'okay that's probably as good a place as any to start'.

What followed was more of a long essay dissecting the Bible story trying to ascertain motive for some of Samson's actions including but not limited to dissecting his relationship with his parents, why he lived amongst the Philistines, and the women that he was associated with. A couple of examples - Why did he feel the need to use 300 pairs of foxes to burn the Philistines fields and why did he not tell his parents that he had killed a lion with his bare hands, and most importantly, why was it that he told Delilah the secret of his strength.

In saying that it was not what I expected, I am not saying that I didn't enjoy it because for the most part I did. It was very interesting to read through the text and then refer to the footnotes at the back which may have been referencing the Torah, or some other studies of Samson done by a variety of scholars over the years.

Would I have picked it up if it had not been part of this series - probably not. Do I feel compelled to pick up any other work from this author - not really. It was a quick read, and different from most other things I read.

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