Book review: Jezebel by Eleanor de Jong
Jezebel – most recognise her as the notorious Biblical figure synonymous with power but forever tainted by her reputation as a treacherous ‘painted lady.’ Is her Old Testament story the truth, partly the truth or just a pack of lies?
The Book of Kings tells us that the Princess of Tyre who became Queen of Israel set off a period of bitter religious and political strife when she persuaded her husband to abandon the Jewish God Yahweh and worship the Phoenician god Baal.
By angering the vengeful Israelite priests, she signed her own death warrant...
Jezebel is the second sweeping and seductive Biblical saga from Eleanor de Jong who has found fertile territory in the ancient Holy Land for epic tales about some of the most controversial women of all time.
She specialises in taking female figures demonised by a history recorded predominantly by men and reimagining their loves and lives for a modern audience.
De Jong’s first novel, Delilah, featured the woman who famously seduced and betrayed Israelite leader Samson, and now she sets her sights on the beautiful and much-maligned Jezebel.
Jezebel, headstrong and determined, is destined to be married by her father King Ithbaal of Tyre as a pawn in a political game.
Led to believe that handsome Jehu, a Judean prince, will be chosen as her husband, she begins an illicit and passionate affair with him when he stays at her father’s court.
But when Jezebel is told she must instead marry Ahab, the middle-aged and shabby King of Israel, Jehu believes she has cruelly betrayed him.
Her destiny now lies with Ahab in Samaria, a city built on a great flattened mountain, where she is resented by her husband’s first wife and the Israelite priests who regard her as a ‘gaudy Phoenician harlot’ with ‘false gods.’
The years pass, and both Jezebel and Jehu nurse their secret. Jehu, unable to relinquish his love for Jezebel, grows bitter and twisted. But he is unaware of Jezebel’s greatest secret – that he is father to her eldest son, Ahaziah, the heir to Israel′s throne.
As her husband’s health deteriorates, Jezebel gradually assumes control of Israel but hatred of her is being fanned by firebrand prophet Elijah, one of the towering figures of the Old Testament, and his terrifying disciple Elisha.
And as they plot her downfall, Jehu circles closer and it seems the die has been cast. Can Jezebel finally take control of her own destiny or has her time already passed?
Grand in its scope and enthralling in its evocation of a courageous and doomed queen, Jezebel will delight fans of both history and romance.
(Avon, paperback, £7.99)