Friday, 24 April 2015

Book review: Woman of Clay by Linda Caddick


In first century Israel, Shushana lives a quiet life but her inner spirit rages against the outside. Her rebellion against her father brings her to live with her aunt and cousin, and begins her descent into an abyss where she finds no hope. The words and miracles of a mysterious rabbi know as the Teacher and Master speak to Shushana's soul, and in him she begins to find the peace, love, and forgiveness she has longed for.

While technically this is a Biblical or historical fiction novel, it was written as though it could just as easily been set in modern times. This fact makes "Woman of Clay" such a relevant novel to people today. Caddick clearly did some research for this novel, especially when it comes to the events and goings-on during the time of Jesus' ministry. I'm known to be overly critical of historical fiction, especially Biblical fiction, as it's my degree, so a few of these next comments will be completely due to that, and not necessarily a reflection of what readers will see. While it's great that the novel could be translated to modern times, it was too easy to do so. The Middle East has such a distinct feel and resonance that wasn't apparent in the novel. I liked the inclusion of talking about how exactly people travelled around, because it wasn't easy. But some terms used by the characters and understandings didn't quite fit with First Century Israel. One thing that niggled at me was the names. Some were traditionally Hebrew, some were Anglicized. And then...there was a Spanish name. That absolutely threw me for a loop. If Caddick had wanted to use a name with a certain meaning, there is definitely a Hebrew name as a replacement. (Joana would be the replacement, even though there is already a character with that name. Or Matea/Mathia could work.)

Other than those issues, this is actually quite a wonderful novel. It does an excellent job at showing the love and forgiveness of God, and depicts what it was like to be a follower of Christ during his last year of ministry. It's easy to see why it was seen to be so radical, and some people were taken to be fanatics. But Caddick explored that rationale well and showed how it was dealt with within the Jewish culture. It was definitely a dangerous time, not only with the Pharisees but also the Romans. I would have liked to see a bit more of an account of what it was like to live under Roman occupation, but I think what is shown is likely the extent of what would have happened. The Romans weren't too concerned with Judea, so it only makes sense that there would be little influence on the actual culture.

Overall this is a lovely novel, with flawed characters who are redeemed in the end. It shows the power of love, faith, and forgiveness between each other and with God. I really loved how this wasn't a novel about Jesus, or Shushana following him. That part of her story was entwined within her quest to find herself and quench the thirst within her spirit, and Caddick did a great job showing that.

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