Marlene Edelstein: Matriarchs – A little book of Heresies

If the women in the Bible could tell their own tales we might see them quite differently. This little collection adds a startling new twist to familiar Bible stories, recounting them from the point of view of the female characters, both the well-known matriarchs and the mass whose names are not recorded. Though these stories are mainly drawn from the Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament – the continuity of female experience is acknowledged, and the Virgin Mary and Mary sister of Martha also make appearances. Here women are given the voices they are rarely permitted in the Bible, and new questions arise.

What about the girl-children whose births are so rarely mentioned in the Bible?

How did Rebecca, Rachel, Ruth, and the other women celebrated for their role in the story of Israel, understand their lives?

What were their feelings about their children and about their own bodies?

What place did love and sex have in their thinking? We enter into the minds of women whose lives are utterly unlike our own.

Though the ideas they take for granted are quite alien to modern thinking, these female characters sometimes become aware of an uneasiness which brings them to the edge of questioning the assumptions they were brought up to regard as natural. The stories collected here are short and sharply witty. They are entertaining and thought-provoking narratives which encourage us to question our own assumptions about the stories we learnt as children and the stories we tell to ourselves.

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