Sacred and Profane

Song of Hannah by Eva Etzioni-Ha- Levy (Plume, $14) is a Biblical love triangle, as told by the two wives of Elkanah. Etzioni-Halevy portrays Elkanah as a womanizer, as she does the prophet Samuel, Hannah’s son. Although the biblical account of Samuel’s conception emphasizes the infertile Hannah’s desperation, and her piety, Etzioni-Halevy makes her prudish and self-righteous, while Elkanah’s first wife, Pninah, uses her husband’s emotional and physical infidelities as justification for her own extra-marital affairs. Though few women in biblical times were literate, Hannah and Penina are both scribes in the novel, allowing them to comment on developing Jewish law. Thus this generic romance novel touches on the beginning of the cycle that characterizes the biblical books of the Prophets: Samuel entreats the people to return to Torah law, the people do not listen, God sends the Philistines into war against them as punishment, the Israelites return to God and prevail.

Arielle Gomberg is a student at Douglass College, Rutgers University