For half a century, while he built a reputation as one of the great novelists of his generation with works like Marjorie Morningstar and The Winds of War, Herman Wouk chased what he called “the impossible novel”—a story based on the life of Moses. He never found the key to making the book work. Until now.
The Lawgiver is in many ways a culmination for Wouk. Delivered near the end of his life (he is 97), it recalls the spirit of his earlier work, and realizes a dream that he held close for his entire literary career. The result is a surprising, refreshing and dynamic novel that explores the story of Moses through the lives of the people trying to tell it.
When an Australian billionaire sets out to finance a new big-screen epic telling the story of Moses, he approaches Wouk (a character in his own novel) to put his stamp of approval on any screenplay the effort produces. Wouk and his wife of more than six decades, Betty Sarah, find themselves embroiled in an often chaotic Hollywood production that includes demanding producers, mercurial actors, forceful financiers and a young director fighting to prove herself.
The entire tale is told in the form of dialogues and monologues. Emails, memos, transcripts of phone conferences and Skype meetings are included in every chapter, creating an immediacy and sense of voyeurism that makes every page crackle. Within the story, as each character mulls the life of Moses, we find the elements of an Old Testament epic—romance, deception, power versus determination—all wrapped up in a modern journey into the heart of Hollywood. It’s an intriguing and ultimately enchanting juxtaposition. Wouk wrings meaning and emotion from the cynicism of the movie industry, and reveals yet again that he is still capable of astounding feats of storytelling.Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
Sixty-four years after the publication of his first novel, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and American treasure Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny) tackles, at age 97, what he calls an "impossible novel": the story of Moses. He succeeds in an artfully oblique, amazing, and modern way. He inserts himself as himself--the writer from whom Hollywood producers must obtain script/screenwriter approval, a precondition imposed by the wealthy backer for a blockbuster Moses movie. Employing an epistolary format with a cool 21st-century spin, Wouk moves the stories of film creation and personal relationships forward through the many voices of his characters delivered by emails, faxes, FedExes, text messages, interoffice memos, trade articles, tape and Skype transcripts, and actual letters. The characters pop off the page fully animated and imagined. Chief among them are his brilliant, dearly loved wife, Betty Wouk; Margo Solovei, a young, ambitious filmmaker who defied her Orthodox Jewish father to follow her dreams; and Margo's disarming early love, Joshua Lewin, who has grown into a thoughtful, successful lawyer who still loves her. VERDICT Anyone who has wrestled with sacred religious tradition of any kind, and everyone who loves a good story, should get this smart, engaging jewel of a novel as soon as possible. May Wouk have other tales in him and live to be 120! [See Prepub Alert, 4/30/12.]--Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Institution Libs., Washington, DC[Page 65]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Moses, star of the Hebrew Bible; major figure in the New Testament and the Qur'an; played on screen by Charlton Heston, Burt Lancaster, and Val Kilmer; now the inspiration for both Wouk's novel and the big-budget movie production it chronicles. At 97, Wouk (Marjorie Morningstar; The Winds of War) has created a tale that, for all its modern trappings (it's told in e-mails, faxes, and transcripts, and relies on the movements of the very rich and the very Hollywood), is essentially old-fashioned. This is not a bad thing: after an exposition-heavy start that sets up an Australian billionaire intent on financing a film about the Lawgiver, various screenwriters, producers, actors, lawyers, and even scientists with various agendas; Hollywood wunderkind and lapsed Jew Margo Solovei, who learned Moses's story from her rabbi father; and Wouk playing himself, the novel comes into its own as a suspenseful narrative that asks fundamental questions: is Moses still relevant? Can this movie get made? Will true love prevail? The answers will not necessarily surprise, but getting to them is a fun ride, and though the epilogue, an address from Wouk, has the feel of a vanity project, in creating a contemporary version of Marjorie Morningstar, Wouk the author has made something old, and something very old, new again. Agent: Amy Rennert. (Nov. 13)[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC