by Hannah S. Pressman

A Biblical Bloomsbury

“I must purify myself,” declares the tortured painter Beatrice Campbell-Bennett, the protagonist of Mandrakes from the Holy Land (Toby Press, $22.95). Set in Ottomancontrolled Palestine in 1906, this romantic epistolary novel about a woman’s battle with faith and sexuality plays with the polarities between Judaism and Christianity, corruption and chastity, nature and society, body and mind. Thanks to Sondra Silverston’s fluid rendering of Aharon Megged‘s 1998 novel Dudaim min ha-Aretz ha-Kedoshah, English-reading fans of Hebrew literature now have access to this provocative portrait, Through Beatrice’s wideopen eyes, we encounter Palestine in the first decade of the twentieth century, meeting such famous historical figures as the Aaronsohn family of Zikhron Ya’akov along the way.

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