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Sarah: A Novel (The Canaan Trilogy, Book 1) Hardcover – May 4, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Yet another entry in the burgeoning subgenre of fictional portraits of biblical women (see, for example, Rebecca Kohn's retelling of the story of Queen Esther in The Gilded Chamber), Halter's novel (the first in a trilogy) adheres to a by now familiar formula: frank sexual and emotional revelations presented against a backdrop of burnished interiors. Halter's Sarah is born Sarai, the daughter of one of the most powerful lords of Ur. At the age of 12, she is pledged in marriage to a man she has never met, and despite the finery of her bridal chamber ("Everything was new.... Linen rakutus as smooth as a baby's skin"), she flees in distress. Dragged back to her father's house, she doses herself with an herbal concoction that leaves her barren and is made a priestess of Ishtar, Ur's goddess of war. Six years later, an encounter with her childhood love, the handsome Abram, furnishes her with the chance she's been waiting for: she escapes with him and joins his nomadic tribe. Her contentment is short-lived, because Abram is called by God to leave his tribe and set out for a new land, whereupon the familiar (but freely adapted) Bible story unfolds. The misery Sarah feels at being barren, the indecent love her nephew Lot expresses for her, her encounter with Pharaoh and her quarrel with Hagar, the slave woman who gives Abram a child, shape the novel's second half. Halter isn't afraid to present headstrong Sarah as bitter in her old age, and his complex portrait of the biblical matriarch gives this solid if predictable novel a dash of freshness.
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From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Halter offers a retelling of the Old Testament story of Abraham and Sarah; the birth of their son, Isaac; and the creation of the Jewish people. Before Sarai can become Sarah, she must first be a teenager. The daughter of a lord of Ur, she is frightened by her first menstrual blood and runs away from an arranged marriage and meets a nomad boy named Abram. Even though they spend only one night together, she feels an intense connection with him, but she cannot imagine a future with someone so different from herself and returns to her father's house. Still frightened of becoming a wife and mother, she purchases herbs that leave her infertile and is dedicated as a Priestess of Ishtar. Years later, the two are reunited and marry. Readers will find the story compelling, especially Sarai's decision to run away from an arranged marriage. As a newly married wife who loves her husband but is infertile, her relationships with other women in the tribe and her subsequent jealousy are believable. This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed Anita Diamant's The Red Tent (St. Martin's, 1997) or who are interested in historical fiction from a feminist perspective.–Maureen L. Hartman, Minneapolis Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Series: Canaan Trilogy
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (May 4, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400052726
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400052721
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,348,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marek Halter was born in Poland in 1936. During World War II, he and his parents narrowly escaped from the Warsaw ghetto. After a time in Russia and Uzbekistan, they emigrated to France in 1950. The Halter embarked on a career as a painter that led to several international exhibitions. He is also the author of several internationally acclaimed, bestselling historical novels, including Messiah, The Wind of the Khazars, Sarah, Tzipporah, Lilah and the Book of Abraham, which won the Prix du Livre Inter.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Jo Davis VINE VOICE on June 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I so much enjoyed "Sarah" that I read it in twenty-four hours. The day before I read the "Red Tent". If you are searching for a historically accurate portrayal of the story of Sarah and Abraham you won't find it here. What you will find is an entertaining historical novel focusing on the women in biblical times. The male author does a really good job (contrary to one reviewers opinion) of writing in a famale voice. I felt he understood the trials and tribulations of women at that time very well. This book is about Sarah so to say it would have been better if it had been written about another character is ludicrous. The ongoing debate between reviewers about the relationship between Sarah and Abraham is also ludicrous given that there is no way to know exactly if they were related or not. The Bible is filled with historical inaccuracies and exaggerations as it was written by men who had an agenda of their very own to protect. The point I'm trying to make here is that this is a fictionalized version of the story of Sarah and Abraham. It is enjoyable, fast paced and gives an overview of life at that time. If you are looking for biblical truths you won't find it here and no amount of arguing will change that.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this novel--it's not only entertaining as an afternoon read, it gives the reader a lot to think about without ever being didactic.
Ignore the reviewers who argue over whether Sarah was Abraham's sister (they had a child together, so I'm guessing that unless the Bible sanctions incest, they were not. And honestly people, did you even bother to READ the book?)
This is a very well-written book that takes a look at the life and times of an influential woman, without ever losing sight of her essential humanity and the beauty of her spirit. Sarah's constant wrangling with God's will and with whether or not to believe in an invisible God speaks a great deal to what all of us deal with in our own lives, even if we don't go to church or synagogue regularly. It's also a terrific love story between a very intelligent, mystical, headstrong man, Abraham, and his bold, intelligent, practical wife, Sarah. I am glad to see a book that celebrates the love a man can have for a woman who is not only beautiful, but who challenges his worldviews and acts as a total partner with him in his journey to find God. I highly recomment this book to anyone who likes a good novel, especially a historical one.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Alyssa M. on September 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
There are so many "stories from the Bible" novels out there right now, and I have read most of them, but Sarah really stands out from the crowd, and while it's based in the Biblical story, it never hits you over the head with religious dogma.

Sarah is really the story of the journey of Sarai from a pampered daughter of a rich lord to the wife of the nomadic prophet Abraham of the book of Genesis. She's known for her beauty, but is remarkably gutsy and intelligent, and acts as a full partner to the charismatic and determined Abraham. There's a wonderful love story to be found in these pages, the love of two bold and adventurous people who risk everything for each other and for what they believe in.

The descriptions in this book are marvellous, from the opening pages in the great Babylonian city of Ur to the palaces of the Pharaoah and the wide open fields of Canaan. The author has a talent for bringing places and people to life without loading down his work with lots of adjectives and flights of fancy--all the images are vivid and real, and it makes for a great "curl up and enjoy" kind of read.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Purrrfect_Blue on October 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book cover caught my eye and the quote on the cover comparing it to The Red Tent convinced me to buy it. I too read this book in 24 hours, not because it was engrossing but because it seemed to lack substance and depth. The problem has nothing to do with the fact that it was biblically inaccurate; The Red Tent was not very accurate either starting with the Leah character whose eyes, according to the old testament, were her best feature, not an abomination. It was the fact that the plot focused almost entirely on Sarai's beauty and her lamentations of all the hardships it cost her. The plot was very underdeveloped and full of holes. The Sarai character came across as incredibly vain and was not very endearing. There were also not a lot of details about the setting. There was a lot of mention of various gods but not a lot a lot about the culture it seemed. What I liked most about The Red Tent was the lush detail and the sense of a world come alive. All the small things from the preparation of meals to the varying tasted of the different kinds of beer served to the men really drew you into the story. It elicited an emotional response from me where as Sarah did not. If I had not read The Red Tent a couple times before I read Sarah maybe I would have enjoyed it more, but as it stands, this book came across more as a fluffy romance novel than a piece of historical fiction.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on June 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Marek Halter's SARAH is already a bestseller in France and has been translated into ten languages. The debut of SARAH in the United States will lend credence to Halter's sensitive treatment of women in the Bible. His plans for the two subsequent books in the trilogy are the stories of Zipporah and Lilah, lesser known than Sarah, wife of Abraham, but with tremendous impact on the shaping of society.
SARAH is the story of civilization's first rebellious teenager who became one of the world's most powerful women. An interview with the author reveals that he sees his women as those "beside," not "behind" great men. The book emphasizes Sarah's working side by side with Abraham to create a life filled with his religious beliefs. Sarah was not a believer in Abraham's God until late, after her early mistakes came back to haunt her unfulfilled life.
SARAH begins in the region now known as Iraq, the cradle of history, between the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. The region was then known as Sumeria and the city-state where Sarai lived was known as Ur. She is the daughter of a powerful lord of Ur, a beautiful child who comes to womanhood in the first chapter. Her father arranges a marriage with a suitable man when she is twelve years old. The young girl is terrified of the prospects of the marriage bed and flees. Overnight, she runs from safety in the walled city to unknown terrors beyond it. On a riverbank she meets Abram, a poor but exotic member of a nomadic tribe. She spends the night with him and longs for his kiss. But soldiers discover her in the morning and return her to her father's house.
Halter has a unique way of entering his heroine's mindset and allowing the reader to see and feel the turmoil swimming in her head.
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