The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther.

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9780141020501: The Gilded Chamber: A Novel of Queen Esther.

One girl, one nation, one chance . . .Esther's story is one of the most dramatic in the Bible: a renowned beauty, she used her feminine wiles to capture the heart of a king and so win the deliverance of her people from the threat of death. The Gilded Chamber creatively re-works the famous story to show us how this young girl came to be in the harem of King Xerxes and how her path to womanhood enabled her to save a nation and find peace.This is a tale of strength, seduction and survival, of the solidarity of women, and its descriptions of the Persian palace and the secrets contained within those walls will hold you spellbound to the final page.

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What The Red Tent did for Dinah, The Gilded Chamber, a first novel by Rebecca Kohn, might do for Esther, the woman who wielded power over a King. The story follows the Book of Esther very closely: Xerxes banishes his wife Vashti and sets about finding a new wife by claiming all the young virgins in the kingdom of Persia for his perusal and delectation. Esther, born Hadassah, is a young Jewish orphan, remanded to the custody of her cousin Mordechai, to whom she is betrothed. Mordechai attends to the King at the Palace, but no one knows that he is a Jew. He warns Hadassah to take the name Esther when she is swept up by the King's edict, and not to reveal her heritage.

After a year of being pampered by court slaves, Esther is presented to the King. He is instantly smitten and makes her his Queen. sther longs for Mordechai but succumbs to the blandishments of the King to save herself from being sent to the soldiers--a horrible fate. In the course of Palace intrigue, Haman, a truly evil man who is viewed as a trusted servant of the King, plots to kill Mordechai, who will not bow to him, and ultimately to kill all the Jews in the Kingdom. King Xerxes, a bit of a buffoon both in the Bible and in Kohn's book, is languishing under the effects of idleness and too much wine. He gives Haman his signet ring; Haman drafts the edict which will result in the death of the Jews and seals it with the King's ring. Now, Esther must save her people.

The portent of this book is found not in the story alone, but in the meticulous research that Kohn has done into the time: Palace life, social customs, history, sexual practices, the place of women, war and politics. Descriptions of the care given to Esther before she meets the King are detailed: her trips to the hairdressers, her hennaed hands, the pungent oils rubbed all over her body, the gold-trimmed clothing she wears. She describes her dinner with a eunuch: "Golden cups in the shape of tulip blossoms were filled with sweet spiced wine from Hodu, and shining silver platters were piled high with meat stews and succulent birds I could not identify. A plate of sugared almonds and pistachios ... and a sweet of sesame, dates and honey..." She is willing to sacrifice all creature comforts to save her people; her success is celebrated to this day in the Jewish feast of Purim. --Valerie Ryan

From the Inside Flap:

Advance Praise for The Gilded Chamber:

"The Gilded Chamber has a dreamy, timeless quality that takes the reader deep into the world of ancient Persia without the clichéd props made infamous by Hollywood. Quiet, self-contained, the famous heroine Queen Esther, savior of her people, becomes a living, breathing person in these pages. The world she came from-Jews living scattered throughout the Persian Empire-helps us understand this enigmatic woman who came to the glittering court of King Xerxes and used her wits to triumph over its intrigues. The Gilded Chamber is a world onto itself and one well worth entering." -Margaret George, author of Mary, Called Magdalene and The Memoirs of Cleopatra

"An elegant and provocative novel. Sensuous yet precise prose brings to life a seductively decadent court and reveals the secrets of those imprisoned by its jeweled walls. Esther's struggle to remain true to herself despite the temptations of rank and power-and the more subtle lures of passion and of love - makes her a truly human and appealing heroine. The Gilded Chamber is a must-read for fans of The Red Tent!"-India Edghill, author of Queenmaker: A Novel of King David's Queen

"The story of Esther and how she saved her people is one of the most romantic in all literature. It might be too much to say that The Gilded Chamber has gone the Bible one better, but Rebecca Kohn certainly takes us into places the Old Testament never dreamed of, not only to the secret world of the court and the bedchamber, but the sphere of war, politics, and intrigue as well. A triumph of historical imagination and a must-read for lovers - and lovers of Jewish history."- Steven Pressfield, author of Last of the Amazons and Gates of Fire

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