Sunday, March 23, 2008

Jerusalem rises again. A review of Victory on the Walls

Historical fiction retellings of Bible stories can be tricky propositions. It's no easy task for an author to create a new tale which weaves personages from salvation history in with fictional characters. Sometimes the results are highly unsatisfactory to the point where the original Scriptural passages are warped or wrongly interpreted. When done well, the new story can help elucidate the Scriptural passages and generate interest in them.

Victory on the Walls: A Story of Nehemiah by Frieda Clark Hyman is one of the latter variety. Mainly following the adventures of Bani, a fictional nephew of Nehemiah, the tale tells the story of how the Jewish people re-established themselves in Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity. It is based on the Biblical books 1 and 2 Ezra (Nehemiah) and the major events which occur in the story are drawn directly from Scripture.

On the whole, the story moves quickly and is well told. Nehemiah is presented as strong and focused, but at the same time compassionate and forgiving. The character of Bani is predominantly well drawn, although there are a few scenes where he appears too much like a petulant modern teen for my tastes. I found the writing a bit more simplistic than some of the other books in the genre. It can be easily read by a 10 year old, as the book is billed.

Victory on the Walls was interesting enough for me that a re-reading of the relevant Scriptural passages was warranted after I finished it. Hopefully the book will inspire others to do likewise.

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