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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Glorious Brothers by Howard Fast

A great piece of historical fiction - strongly recommended

Howard Fast (1914-2003)
When I teach world history I always give my students a project in which they are to read a piece of historical fiction and do a bit of research. This book is exactly the type of book I recommend for them to read and why I created the project in the first place. My Glorious Brothers is well-written and re-creates a little bit of the historical world for the reader.

Set in 2nd Century B.C. Israel, this is a story of national liberation and freedom of religious expression. Many Protestants will be unfamiliar with the Maccabees since Maccabees 1-4 is not included in the Protestant Bible. This book is an ideal place to start to explore that time between the exile in Babylon and the Roman occupation that is featured in the New Testament.

The main characters are 5 brothers and their father, descendents of the Tribe of Levi. They refuse to be "civilized" by Hellenized (Greek-influenced) Syrians - they want to keep their old traditions and religion. They revolt against too many taxes, too many injustices and being forced to worship Greek gods. ("Thus they 'Hellenized' us, not with beauty and wisdom, but with fear and terror and hate." - p. 33)

I strongly recommend this one. Despite being more than 50 years old, this book can stand on its own among newer and more popular works about the ancient world such as Gates of Fire: An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae in both its battlefield descriptions and its cultural explorations.

Quote from the book I particularly liked: "What does the Lord require from a man, but that he should walk humbly and love righteousness?" (p. 142)

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on August 19, 2008.

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