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Interview with Anna Solomon, Author of THE BOOK OF V.
June 29th, 2020 by Liza Wiemer

Buying Links on Anna Solomon’s Website

About THE BOOK OF V.—

Anna Solomon’s kaleidoscopic novel intertwines the lives of a Brooklyn mother in 2016, a senator’s wife in 1970s Washington, D.C., and the Bible’s Queen Esther, whose stories of sex, power and desire overlap and ultimately converge—showing how women’s roles have and have not changed over thousands of years.

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.

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.

Following in the tradition of The Hours and The Red TentThe Book of V. is a bold and contemporary investigation into the enduring expectations and restraints placed on women’s lives.

Q & A:

1. What made you decide to write inspired by The Book of Esther?

I’ve been fascinated by Queen Vashti since I was a girl. She’s banished early on in the The Book of Esther and never mentioned again, and in traditional tellings of the story, during the Jewish holiday of Purim, she’s depicted as being very bad. But it was never clear to me how she was bad. And then as I grew up I became more interested in the question of what bad even means, and whether these categories we often apply to female characters—bad, good; wanton, virtuous; aggressive, meek—reflect actual women, or just our ideas of women. I decided to explore this by playing around with the original Esther story. I wanted to rewrite it, and also to bring it into the heyday of the second wave women’s movement in the 1970s, and then also into the present. So I wound up with these three different timelines, and I made them converge.

2. Please share any novel secrets—something behind-the-scenes that readers won’t know just from picking up the book.

There’s this embroidery sampler that plays kind of a big role in the book. It says, “A Well-Kept House is a Sign of an Ill-Spent Life” and one of my characters, Lily, grew up with it hanging on the back of her bathroom door. Her mother hung it there and the message of it kind of hangs over Lily, who has become, in part, a homemaker. And late in the book the sampler also leads to a plot revelation, which I won’t share here. But I will share this: My mother hung the same sampler on the back of our bathroom door, and like Lily, I must have read it thousands of times. I didn’t know how much I had to say about it, though, until I started writing this novel. 

Bonus round: What do you prefer?

Fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy? Dairy. I mean, I like all these things, but I especially love cheese, ice cream, butter, and whipped cream.

Dancing, walking, ice-skating, skiing, running? Dancing. I don’t dance enough but when I do it makes me so happy.

Movies, musicals, plays, books? Books. All of these things are excellent but there is nothing like entering the private world of a book and losing myself in an alternate reality. 

About Anna:

Anna Solomon is the author of three novels—The Book of V., Leaving Lucy Pear, and The Little Bride—and a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize. Her short fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Ploughshares, One Story, The Boston Globe, Tablet, and elsewhere. Anna is the recipient of awards from MacDowell, Yaddo, Bread Loaf, the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts, and The Missouri Review, among others, and her short story “The Lobster Mafia Story” was chosen as Boston’s One City One Story read. Anna is co-editor with Eleanor Henderson of Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers. Previously, she worked as an award-winning journalist for National Public Radio’s Living on Earth.

Anna is a graduate of Brown University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and teaches writing at Barnard College, Warren Wilson’s MFA Program in Creative Writing, and the 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center. 

Anna was born and raised in Gloucester, Massachusetts and lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and two children.

Find Anna on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and her website


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