Book of V. (Solomon)

The Book of V. 
Anna Solomon, 2020
Henry Holt & Co.
320 pp.

A bold, kaleidoscopic novel intertwining the lives of three women across three centuries as their stories of sex, power, and desire finally converge in the present day.

Lily is a mother and a daughter. And a second wife. And a writer, maybe? Or she was going to be, before she had children.

Now, in her rented Brooklyn apartment she’s grappling with her sexual and intellectual desires, while also trying to manage her roles as a mother and a wife in 2016.

Vee (Vivian Barr) seems to be the perfect political wife, dedicated to helping her charismatic and ambitious husband find success in Watergate-era Washington D.C.

But one night he demands a humiliating favor, and her refusal to obey changes the course of her life—along with the lives of others.

Esther is a fiercely independent young woman in ancient Persia, where she and her uncle’s tribe live a tenuous existence outside the palace walls.

When an innocent mistake results in devastating consequences for her people, she is offered up as a sacrifice to please the King, in the hopes that she will save them all.

In The Book of V. these three characters' riveting stories overlap and ultimately collide, illuminating how women’s lives have and have not changed over thousands of years. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1976
Raised—Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA
Education—B.A., Brown University; M.A., Iowa Writers' Workshop
Awards—Pushcart Prize (twice); Missouri Review Editor Prize
Currently—lives in Providence, Rhode Island

Anna Solomon is an American journalist and the author of two novels—The Little Bride (2011),  Leaving Lucy Pear (2016), and The Book of V. (2020).

Raised in Gloucester, Massachusetts, Solomon received her B.A. from Brown University. After college, she moved back home to try her hand at writing, enrolling in workshops at GrubStreet writing center in Boston.

When her year at home was up, Solomon took an internship with National Public Radio's Living On Earth in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The position led to a full-time reporting job and eventually to radio producing, working both in Cambridge and Washington, D.C., on award-winning stories about environmental policy and politics. Although Solomon says she loved working in radio (and may some day return to it), she was still committed to becoming a novelist, so she used her commuting time to write fiction.

An M.F.A. at Iowa Writers' Workshop came next. Needing steady income following her graduate work, Solomon turned to teaching. All the while, she continued writing—short stories and essays—for periodicals.

She also married a classmate from Brown, by then a professor in environmental climate law. The couple has two children.

In 2011 Solomon published her first novel, The Little Bride; five years later she released Leaving Lucy Pear. Both books have been well received.

Solomon’s short fiction has appeared in One Story, Georgia Review, Harvard Review, Missouri Review, Shenandoah, and elsewhere. Her stories have twice been awarded the Pushcart Prize, have won The Missouri Review Editor’s Prize, and have been nominated for a National Magazine Award.

Her essays have been published in the New York Times Magazine, Slate’s Double X, and Kveller. (Adapted from Wikipedia and Glen Urquhart School bio. Retrieved 9/20/2016.)

Book Reviews
The engrossing, highly readable, darkly sexy third novel by Anna Solomon…. The Book of V. is a meditation on female power and powerlessness, the stories told about women and the ones we tell about and to ourselves.
New York Times Book Review

Irresistible, sexy and intelligent…. The Book of V. radiates a dynamism that invites rereads and generously keeps giving―challenging and arousing us as it delights.
Washington Post

(Starred review) Solomon connects [three] stories in a way that’s fresh and tantalizing, with fascinating intergenerational discussions about desire, duty, family, and feminism, as well as a surprising, completely believable twist. This frank, revisionist romp through a Bible tale is a winner.
Publishers Weekly

[An] evocative novel…each story line is captivating.

(Starred review) Esther, the Old Testament teenager …is connected across the ages to two more contemporary women in a sinuous, thoughtful braid of women’s unceasing struggles for liberty and identity.… A bold, fertile work… almost old-school in its feminist commitment.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for THE BOO OF V. … then take off on your own:

1. Talk about the way that author Anna Solomon connects the Esther story in the Bible with Vee's story in this novel. In fact, how does the specter of Vashti haunt the entire novel? Maybe a better question to ask would be: what do all three women have in common?

2. When Vee refuses her husband's request did you find the plotline, at that point, improbable? If so, did it make a difference to you in your enjoyment of the overall novel? Why or why not?

3. How is Lily caught between two competing mores, her mother's and her neighbors'? Does the conundrum she finds herself in resonate in any way with you?

4. Lily has this overwhelming (or perhaps underlying?) sense that she "has not become the type of woman she was supposed to become." Talk about what she means.

5. (Follow-up to Question 4) Have you ever felt, like Lily, that you have not lived up to expectations? If so, whose expectations? Yours? Others'? If others', whose?

6. How does Solomon use Lily and her husband to portray domestic life? How would you describe their marriage?

7. What does Lily discover about her mother after Ruth dies? Were you as surprised as Lily? Does the revelation change your perception of Ruth?

8. How does Vashti in Anna Solomon's retelling of Esther's story become the savior? "It's not her story they want, of course," Vashti muses. "She is only the queen who is banished so their part could begin." What does she mean?

m. Anna Solomon is keenly interested in the stories told about women: those told about women and those women tell themselves. Can you think of other stories or myths that could be reworked to achieve a different outcome of powerlessness vs. power for women?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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