Captivity by György Spiró (a glorious first read of the year, although I am not yet finished)

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Behold Captivity, a novel of a mere 832 pages, each one riveting me to the story of Uri and his companions who are on a mission traveling from Jerusalem to Rome. Do not imagine that Uri is a sturdy traveler, nor that his companions are his friends. He has been selected for reasons he knows not why, other than that his father has loaned a tremendous sum to Agrippa, and it seems being a part of the delegation is the outcome of such a favor. But Uri is mistrusted, his bags are consistently searched, and he is spied upon during every leg of their journey.

Indeed Uri seems an unlikely candidate for such a trip. When they began his ankles were not strong, his belly carried a paunch, his head was balding, his chin was doubled, but worse than any of that is the fact that he cannot see well. His eyesight requires tremendous squinting to see any distance from afar, and Uri had developed a board through which to peer when he was at home in Rome.

But poor eyesight did not hinder him from reading, or from learning languages. Rather Uri can speak Greek, Latin, Egyptian, Hebrew and Aramaic. His favorite passion is reading.

“I also need peace,” he said hoarsely, “to read, because for me nothing else is of interest. I can recite to you the whole of Greek and Latin literature by heart. No one is using me to pass messages to anyone: I swear by Everlasting God who is One that this is the truth.”

Studded throughout the pages of this novel are characters who are already familiar to me from reading through the Bible:

    • Pilate
    • Herod Antipas
    • John the Baptist
    • Simon the Magus
    • the Sanhedrin
    • the high priests such as Caiaphas

I am hopeful that reading this prize-winning historical novel will further enhance my understanding of Biblical times. In and of itself, however, it is a fabulous read. Even if it will take me a few more weeks to finish. (I plan on posting a final review at the end of January.)

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18 comments

    1. It has helped me to be in touch with some incredible publishers! In this case, Restless Books (to which the title is linked in my post) provided me with a copy in part due to my interest in translated literature. Captivity was translated from Hungarian, which surprises me as I keep thinking it came from a Hebrew writer. The detail is so intensive and well researched.

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    1. It’s so funny, with books 300 pages can be interminable; with others 800 fly. (Here I’m thinking of Murakami’s 1Q84.) This one isn’t going terribly fast, but I think it’s because I’ve gone back to work after two weeks off for Christmas.

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        1. It went for quite a long time for me, too, and oddly enough started to resemble Gone With the Wind (?!) in my mind, probably because of the war between the two sides. But, it is not my favorite Tolstoy novel. My favorite “chunkster” of his is Anna Karenina which seemed to fly by.

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    1. TJ, I don’t think I’ll finish by the end of the month either! So much is going on with three birthdays in our family in January, plus work obligations and a class at Wheaton College. But I am enjoying it, so let’s just take the time we need. So glad you like it!

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  1. I am sooooo glad you organized this Read Along! This is such a great book and though i am struggling to find time in between grueling work hours to read this book, it is one fascinating and riveting read!! Chunksters are not chunksters if they keep you hooked and this one does!! I agree, what a great way to start the year!

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    1. I love how you said, “Chunksters are not chunksters if they keep you hooked,” and i so agree! I never labored through Anna Karenina in my life. 😉 That said, like you, it is taking me a long time. Not because the book isn’t good, but because my work hours are quite intensive as well. Still, we’ll carry on, and I’m so glad that everyone who is reading it likes it!

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    1. This was new to me, too, until Vishy pointed it out and Restless Books sent me a review copy. But, it is worthy of every accolade it’s received (which are not a few!) and so fascinating in terms of the way it delivers historical perspective into Roman/Judean times.

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    1. Even though it is historical, it is not the least bit dry (in case that might be synonymous for you). It reads like such an interesting novel, and puts Biblical times in a better perspective for me.

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