Still challenging

five drawings of womens facesOnward Christian Soldiers was the theme song this weekend as I got on with the five book Christian Fiction challenge under the generalship of Miss Francine Rivers.

Unveiled is the first in her Lineage of Grace series of five novellas (yes I know, a novella but I am truly on a mission here so I’m counting it as one of the five) about biblical women  in the genealogy of Jesus. The others in the series are Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary.

At the age of 14 Tamar is given in marriage to Er, son of  Judah. Those who were not paying attention at Sunday School or during productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat may not remember that Judah was one of bad boy brothers of Joseph,  who sold him into slavery.

Er is an abusive bad-tempered mama’s boy who is struck dead mid-rant. According to custom  Tamar is then given to second son Onan in order to beget a son in Er’s memory. That is not going to happen married to unsavoury old Onan, and clearly the Lord has bigger plans for Tamar than being married to either of these losers, as Onan also dies. Shelah is the third brother but Judah is none too keen on custom by this stage of proceedings so he keeps the two apart. Tamar is sent back to her father’s house where she is treated as little more than a slave before she eventually triumphs.

Unveiled is an engrossing read, short but satisfying.  Tamar didn’t appear in my Child’s Big Book of Bible Stories so I wasn’t familiar with her but she’s a compelling character and Francine Rivers isn’t one of the biggest names in Christian Fiction for nothing. I would read more of her but I am now about to embark on a ‘bonnet read’ – that is what Faith Fiction (this term is preferred to Christian Fiction apparently) publishers call romances set in closed communities like the Amish.

The Night Book

CoverHaving finished The night book by New Zealand writer Charlotte Grimshaw, (Winner of the 2008 Montana Book award for her short stories Opportunity),  I can’t decide whether I really liked it or not.  I certainly found that I wanted to finish it, and being a non finisher this is a good sign, but I’m just not one hundred percent sure that it is a great book.  The original story comes directly from her book Singularity, and maybe it works better as a short story? I would certainly be interested to hear what others think.

There is no doubt that the content is topical.  Roza is married to David, who looks as if he will become the next New Zealand Prime Minister.  I spent quite a lot of time trying to work out if there is a resemblance to our Mr Key, and certainly David has come from a tough background and is a self-made man.  You would hope that Roza and Bronagh Key don’t have too much in common though, as Roza turns out to have a bit of a drink and drug problem!

Grimshaw’s  descriptions of National party members in Auckland portrayed them as a fairly self-congratulatory lot.   Perhaps they are typecast –  I don’t really know, having not moved in those circles much myself, but from my lefty point of view I did enjoy the descriptions of party faithful in their ruffled skirts, (Trelise Cooper being a ‘must have’)  middle-aged men with red noses, boring fund-raising events and outright snobbery.

What kept me reading this book though?  The plot is somewhat pedestrian, bordering on the soapy, but there is something about the characters that made me want to find out what happens to them.  I almost found myself cheering on David and Roza as they moved among the rosette festooned party faithful, bathing in the glory of an outright National victory.