King Solomon’s Daughter
A captivating novel that tells the famous Bible story from a very different perspective
For King Solomon’s Daughter, Selma Noort has revisited the Old Testament story about the wise King Solomon, who was asked to make a judgement in a case of two women who both claimed to be the mother of the same baby – whereupon Solomon ordered that the child should be cut in two.
In this captivating novel, Noort interweaves the Bible story with the tale of Zissel, the daughter of Lydia and King Solomon. The king in this book is not only wise but also cruel and lecherous. On his travels throughout the land, he assaults young women, left, right and centre, including Lydia. He subjects his people to a strict system of taxation and enslaves young men to build temples and palaces for him. Noort sketches a far more nuanced portrait of the man who, in the Bible, is mainly praised for his wisdom.
Halfway through the book, when Lydia gives birth to a second child, by another man, the existing story and Noort’s imagination come together in an ingenious way: Zissel’s half-brother becomes the baby that Solomon will threaten to cut in two with his sword. In the Bible, it was two prostitutes who each claimed to be the mother of the infant. Noort’s story is given a deeper layer because one of the two women was raped by the king, and his illegitimate daughter is the witness of King Solomon’s judgment.
When writing her book, Noort travelled to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, and her research is reflected in the atmospheric descriptions of the landscape. The most beautiful stories are the ones that survive best, she writes in her afterword, but the suffering of ordinary people is soon forgotten. By choosing not King Solomon but his illegitimate daughter as her protagonist, Noort turns the spotlight fully on an ordinary girl, creating a beautiful story herself. King Solomon’s Daughter is a book with psychologically well-rounded characters and a thrilling, chilling plot.