Song of Miriam
Song of Miriam is the tale of a young and beautiful Jewess destined to take her place among royal society in Russia. Set in Kiev, St. Petersburg, and Rumania during the reign of Catherine the Great and Alexander the First, the novel portrays the court politics of the times and the persecution suffered by Russian Jews during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Miriam is married to an ambitious, cold-hearted businessman, Dov Zeklinsky. Through his business and political acumen, he manages to rise to the heights of influence at court, and Miriam is introduced into royal society. As her husband’s interest in her wanes, the handsome and dashing Count Razovsky attracts her attention, and she cannot resist him. Their passionate affair ultimately becomes disastrous to them both, as palace intrigue and Dov’s ambition bring vicious enemies to their door.
The novel’s synopsis boasts a sweeping plot and grand drama. In my opinion, Song of Miriam does not live up to this claim. The plot is held back by too much telling. It reads as if it is primarily a historical text and educational course in Jewish culture and rituals. However, it is an enlightening reading experience for those who wish to learn about the history of anti-Semitism in Russia during this period. This topic is one of the author’s specialties, as she lectures nationally on “The Politics of Anti-Semitism in the Eighteenth Century.” And if one is seeking to understand Jewish culture, the book boasts a wealth of Jewish, Yiddish, and Russian terminology and cultural explanations, both italicized in the text, as well as in a glossary at the end.