Book-club tales of love and lust
the Apple: Women in the Bible — Timeless Stories of Love, Lust and Longing Naomi Harris Rosenblatt Miramax, £8.99
Naomi Harris Rosenblatt sets out her inspirations for this book in an interesting introduction. “What wisdom, what wisdom,” was her mother’s response to her daughter’s excited recounting of Bible stories.
Rosenblatt’s love of these stories helped lead to her career as a psychotherapist. She connects one particular quality displayed by both her female patients and the women in her beloved stories: resilience.
She herself drew immense strength and sustenance from reading about these women — not always just the heroinesheroines —— and ran Bible classes in Washington both for women and senators. They also found much to identify with: apparently the David and Bathsheba study week coincided with Clinton and Lewinsky headlines.
Rosenblatt was always surprised and cheered by re-reading the texts. “I did not find women to be grovelling servants or blindly obedient wives,”” she writes. “They use their power as women to subvert, to seduce… they use their feminine intelligence to challenge patriarchal authority… These courageous, proactive women are not punished, but are instead rewarded for their boldness.”
Her 17 chapters, each exploring a woman’s story — including Eve, Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca and the Queen of Sheba — she sees in the tradition of Midrash, inviting readers to search for interpretation and contemporary relevance. Her mission is to “extricate the womens’ voices from a malecentred narrative.”
Her thoughtful conclusion reiterates the subversive role of biblical women and celebrates their documented vulnerabilities as well as their strengths.
The chapters themselves tell the womens’ tales without much adornment and the authorial comments are enthusiastic but hardly deep or ground-breaking.
We are certainly in book-group territory here: an appendix suggests questions to guide such a group. “After the Apple” is ideal for women readers who might never have thought they could make a connection with these ancient characters.
For women coming entirely anew, and perhaps negatively prejudiced to these stories, this book would offer a great framework for discussion and self-discovery.