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the Complete Review
the complete review - essay



Lion's Honey

by
David Grossman


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Lion's Honey



Title: Lion's Honey
Author: David Grossman
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2005 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 145 pages
Original in: Hebrew
Availability: Lion's Honey - US
Lion's Honey - UK
Lion's Honey - Canada
Löwenhonig - Deutschland
  • Hebrew title: דבש אריות
  • The Myth of Samson
  • Translated by Stuart Schoffman
  • Part of The Myths-series

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Our Assessment:

B+ : nicely done interpretive read-along

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Age . 29/7/2006 David Bernstein
The Independent . 26/5/2006 Linda Grant
London Rev. of Books . 20/7/2006 Jenny Diski
The Spectator . 10/6/2006 Digby Anderson
The Times . 8/7/2006 Kate Saunders
TLS . 30/6/2006 Gerald Jacobs


  From the Reviews:
  • "But it is at a second level, of Samson as a metaphor not only for the Jewish people, but for the modern state of Israel, that Grossman's account is so arresting -- especially in light of the present chaos in the Middle East. (...) (I)t illustrates, in the profoundest way possible, the capacity of myth, especially in the hands of a writer as skilled and as sensitive as Grossman, to cast light into the darkest, most ancient depths of human behaviour, both individual and collective, at all times and in all circumstances." - David Bernstein, The Age

  • "Grossman, in the most phenomenal act of imaginative empathy, brushes aside these well-worn tropes and examines what might be the thoughts and feelings of someone in such an impossible condition" - Linda Grant, The Independent

  • "Grossman is entitled to his interpretation of the text like anyone else, and the notion of the strangeness and loneliness of Samson and his inability to understand it is intriguing, but the normative assumptions and their presentations are as cloying and unconvincing as the saccharine family moment Grossman imagines when, on the day of his wedding, Samson scoops the honey from the belly of the lion he killed." - jenny Diski, London Review of Books

  • "Original and very clever." - Kate Saunders, The Times

  • "Grossman's approach to the story in Lion's Heart is one of close analysis, textual and psychological. His tone is both informal and didactic, the result both enriching and entertaining." - Gerald Jacobs, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       In Lion's Honey David Grossman offers a reading of the myth of Samson, following the Biblical text and suggesting motives behind and reasons for much that happened. He warns -- or tempts -- right at the start that his reading: "runs against the grain of the familiar Samson".
       Grossman both re-tells the Samson-myth and interprets it, lingering over a variety of detail in trying to understand what might have motivated Samson (and the other actors) in these various scenarios. He has a nice touch -- midway between teacher and raconteur (with a touch of the Talmudic scholar as well) -- and manages to convey both Samson's entire life-story as well as offering a specific interpretation.
       A bit too often, Grossman offers simple explanations that aren't entirely convincing, such as when Samson tears apart a lion:

     Two things cry out here for interpretation: how is it possible that his parents didn't witness the battle ? The puzzle can be solved with perfectly simple explanations: he was walking faster than they were; he knew a shortcut but they were on the main road; or maybe, while his parents walked through the vineyards of Timnah, he circumvented them so as not to transgress the Nazarite prohibition against any contact with grapes.
       It doesn't even sound like a particularly pressing problem, but if he's going to address it he should come up with something better than this -- plausible, perhaps, as to why Samson's parents didn't see the battle, but still leaving open the question why they were not aware of it. Surely this was also a fairly noisy affair, and even if the parents were also well out of earshot, surely there were also traces of the battle on Samson -- if not scratches, then at least quite a bit of blood on him and his clothes .....
       Grossman the novelist is more successful than Grossman the literary detective -- there are other interpretations which also leave numerous open questions -- but the telling of the story is certainly good enough to hold the reader's attention. The Samson story is a good one, and Grossman's interpretations -- even where they do not entirely convince -- are at least intriguing.
       Samson's odd behaviour with Delilah -- revealing his near-fatal weakness, but only after deceiving her (which causes her to show her true, ugly colours) -- isn't entirely satisfactorily explained, but perhaps it can't be. And while Grossman does acknowledge Samson as "the first suicide-killer" (as he takes down three thousand Philistines with him when he pulls down the pillars ...) that might also have been worth dwelling on at greater length.
       Still, Grossman does offer a full picture of Samson, and some interesting ideas about many aspects of his life. Well worth reading.

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Links:

Lion's Honey: Reviews: David Grossman: Other books by David Grossman under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Israeli author David Grossman (דויד גרוסמן‎) was born in 1954.

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© 2006-2010 the complete review

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