Thursday, February 16, 2012

On Famine: A Review of Asenath by Anna Patricio

I recieved a review copy of this book from the author last month, and I must say, I was really excited to read it. Asenath is the wife of Joseph (of the coat of many colors) in the Bible. A little known fact about me: I attended 10 years of Catholic school, preschool to 8th grade. I heard (the sanitized version) of every Bible story my teachers could possibly fit in. Joseph was actually part of a fifth grade assignment that involved putting on a short reinactment. The point is, Joseph and I have some history.

Asenath gets only a small mention in the Bible, as far as I recall, so that left the author a lot of room to imagine a story for her. In this short novel, we learn how Asenath grew up in a fishing village in Egypt, was adopted by nobility, became a priestess, and eventually met and married Joseph.

Positive Comments:

I really like the idea of taking a character from obscure biblical history and giving her a love story. I'm always complaining that their aren't enough historical romances that feature time periods and places other than Victorian England (though I love those, too). Asenath is certainly one good example of how well this can work out, and I would love to see more authors try this sort of thing.

Asenath is strong and independent. She's given a life history, hobbies, and even a job, that make her feel like a character a modern woman could connect with. Yes, I'll admit, I expected her to be a priestess that sat in a garden temple all day doing...priestess things.

I liked the sweet, quiet romance between Asenath and Joseph. It's not a sexy book or a passionate book by any means, but it is a really nice love story.

Critical Comments:

There seems to be very little effort at period accuracy. The descriptions, thoughts, and dialogue between the characters are all fairly modern. I found phrases like "Uh, thanks." and "They used to hang out." a little jarring, considering we're supposed to be in Egypt 2000+ years ago. I've got to cut the author some slack here, because I don't think anyone alive actually knows how people in ancient Egypt talked, well enough to reproduce it in English for a modern audience. But, the result is that the story does not feel like it takes place in ancient Egypt. I found this slightly disapointing.

My other complaint is that there's a love triangle with Asenath, Joseph, and a friend that Asenath has known forever. Initially I the friend was a nice guy who Asenath just didn't love romantically, and that she would ultimately break his heart. But instead he ends up demonized and...shows rape tendencies? Making him into such a crappy character out of know where struck me as a lazy way of keeping Asenath from ever being at fault for anything.


It's a short, light biblical love story. If you like that sort of thing, this book is worth spending an evening on. If your looking for a more serious, in depth historical novel, look elsewhere. 3 stars.


  1. I love the idea of this story but I think I would find the modern words too strange. It's hard to really get lost in a world when something like that makes it feel so unreal.

  2. I've got this book to read as well. I've got to wait until the boyfriend hands over the android for me to read the PDF, though. I'm not keen on modern slang in period settings but we'll see how I fare when I get there.

    I've dropped by to let you know that I've tagged you. It's a little hard to explain in a comment, but if you check the post you'll see.

  3. Dialogue is tricky, especially in historical fiction - too formal and it's difficult to read, too casual and it doesn't feel accurate.

    Interesting review! Probably not a story I'd read, but it does sound very creative.


Thoughtful comments are appreciated! I always respond to them, and I usually return the favor! Happy reading!

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