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At the center of "The Lawgiver "is Margo Solovei, a brilliant young writer-director who has rejected her rabbinical father's strict Jewish upbringing to pursue a career in the arts. When an Australian multibillionaire promises to finance a movie about Moses if the script meets certain standards, Margo does everything she can to land the job, including a reunion with her estranged first love, an influential lawyer with whom she still has unfinished business.
Two other key characters in the novel are Herman Wouk himself and his wife of more than sixty years, Betty Sarah, who, almost against their will, find themselves entangled in the Moses movie when the Australian billionaire insists on Wouk's stamp of approval.
As Wouk and his characters contend with Moses and marriage, and the force of tradition, rebellion, and reunion, "The Lawgiver "reflects the wisdom of a lifetime. Inspired by the great nineteenth-century novelists, one of America's most beloved twentieth-century authors has now written a remarkable twenty-first-century work of fiction.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-09-24
- Reviewer: Staff
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)
Lights, camera, Moses
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.