The Triumph of Deborah
by Eva Etzioni-Halevy

Plume/Penguin, 2008. ISBN 978-0-452-28906-2.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 07/07/2009

Fiction: Historical; Fiction: Romance

Etzioni-Halevy writes an action packed novel using the biblical, historical figures of Deborah, the prophetess and judge and Israelite warrior, Barak from the eleventh century BCE. It is set at a time before and after a battle between the Canaanites and the Israelites in which the Israelites led by Barak are victorious.

The story focuses on Deborah, Barak and a young fictional woman, Nogah, freed from slavery after the battle. The development of both major and minor characters is detailed and believable. Although the Israelites are obviously the heroes in the narrative, the author portrays many of the characters in positive and negative light—they are human beings.

Mary Renault's writing style came to my mind as I began to read. Etzioni-Halevy's creates larger-than-life characters who not only dominate the story but their constituents as well. Her details draw one into a time long ago and tempt one not only to see the scenes, the food, the landscape and the passion but to feel them as well. Although The Triumph of Deborah is a love story, the flow of the plot remains primary. The author provides enough detail in the love scenes so as to leave no doubt; however, I did not find them graphic. Barak is a dominant character, but both Deborah and Nogah are strong, feminine figures who in this fiction guide the Israelites to an historic forty year period of peace. I hope that some strong women might be able to follow their example in this day.

Eva Etzioni-Halevy lives in Tel Aviv with her husband and is a professor emeritus of political sociology. She has published 14 academic books as well as 2 previous biblical novels. Having survived the Holocaust in Italy, she moved to Palestine in 1945. For more information, visit her website.

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