Genre: Christian fiction; biblical fiction; historical fiction; romance
Plot Summary: Hadassah is bought by the very wealthy and influential Valerian family in ancient Rome after her family is massacred by the Romans in Jerusalem. This book is about a young Jewish Christian’s humble and loving servitude to a family that is spiritually and morally drowning in hopelessness and selfish desires.
My Review: I’ve always been drawn to those epic tales set in ancient Rome, stories chockfull of gladiators, Roman soldiers, and beautiful ladies in flowing togas. This more than fits the bill! Plus, I’ve admired Francine Rivers as one of my favorite contemporary authors. She definitely stands head and shoulders above many Christian writers out there in the publishing world today. She has the ability to draw you deep into the story, sucking you into the life of the characters, into the nitty gritty of it all. Her descriptions of characters’ emotions are powerful and dramatic, to say the least.
This story is really quite the epic, right up there with Ben-Hur and Quo Vadis. I would love to see this book be made into a radio drama, or even a 3-part movie! Detailed descriptions, complex plot, a whole host of memorable characters you can learn from, heady romance, vibrant dialogue, and page-turning drama, this book is hard to put down. It is a story that will definitely stick with you for a very long time. You won’t be able to help yourself racing to the library (or amazon.com) for the next installment in series!
Below is a “book trailer” I found (just for fun!):
It came close to my top favorites, and I truly wish it had made my top 20, however, the length of it slowed me down a bit. It was sooo long. Normally, this isn’t necessarily a draw-back for me, particularly if it’s a good story, as this was. But I believe what made it seem to drag a bit was the repetition. Repeat conversations, repetitive scenes in repetitive places made this much longer than it need have been. I lost track of how many times Hadassah was bounced back between Julia and Decimas’ houses.
At times Hadassah seemed a little too perfect, to the point of unbelievability. I could see Marcus’ attraction to her outstanding attitude, but I could not understand Hadassah’s attraction to Marcus, who was selfish and demanding the whole way through the story.
At one point I felt a little disappointed in that although Hadassah is adamant that Jesus rose from the dead and that faith in God brings life and living hope, she doesn’t explain how or why it does. God is the ultimate Life-Giver. When we are reconciled to Him through accepting by faith Jesus’ finished work on the cross in our place, Christ’s life is then our own (Colossians 3:3,4). And it is not the life of a “dead man.” Jesus conquered death. He is living! Therefore, we have hope and meaning… This life is not all there is! And if Jesus can conquer death, He can also free us from bondage to sin.
If you’re a very conservative reader, this book may not be for you. There are many inferences to affairs and sexual trysts between characters, but not graphically written about. The book chronicles the corruptness of Roman society, as mirrored in the Valerian family, and includes gory details, though not enough to make it too graphic or inappropriate. [SPOILER: The scene when Julia aborts her baby is a bit disturbing. END OF SPOILER.] You begin to feel the Velerians’ despair along with them as they sink further and further into evil. But I think this makes Rivers a good storyteller. I believe this is one of the author’s points—when you reach the end of your rope, you find you do not have the resources to be able to save yourself.
“Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure.”
~G. K. Chesterton
Who else can save but the Lord? As Hadassah’s sweet and pure life is a refreshing drink of water in a parched and dying land, others are attracted to the Hope she clings to and to the devoted life she lives out faithfully. I think this makes it an important story for us to learn from. I know that Hadassah will be a good influence on me, and I’m glad I spent time reading this book.
I encourage you to pick this one up and settle in for the long haul this winter! My Uncle J. used to strongly state, “You can’t learn anything from fiction!” …until he came across this trilogy. He read all three books in 2 months! Now that’s saying something!!