Reviews for Lawgiver

Booklist Reviews 2012 October #1
*Starred Review* Wouk has been trying to come up with a way to write a novel about Moses ever since he wrote The Caine Mutiny, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1952. At age 97, the venerated author of panoramic best-sellers finally takes on the challenge of portraying the biblical lawgiver. But with a twist: this witty and wise epistolary novel is about a writer named Herman Wouk, who is having a devil of a time starting his novel about Moses. Herman's struggle with this confounding project is interrupted by "the red-hot moviemaker of the hour," who pesters him to write a screenplay instead. Through a barrage of e-mails, faxes, letters, and text messages, Herman, guided by his skeptical wife, Betty Sarah, agrees only to consult. So it is up to a bold young director, Margo Solovei, to write the anti-Cecil B. DeMille Moses screenplay. Margo has turned her back on her Orthodox upbringing and the mensch of a lawyer who stubbornly loves her, but she soon finds herself reconsidering her Jewish heritage and being single. Brisk, funny, and incisive, Wouk's romantic comedy of art versus love slyly updates the story of the beloved star of his indelible novel Marjorie Morningstar (1955), while nimbly (at last!) retelling the story of Moses. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: This smart, playful novel, along with Wouk's remarkably sustained literary exuberance, will garner major media attention and avid reader interest. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 October #1
The nonagenarian novelist takes a curious, epistolary path toward the epic about Moses that has long defeated him. In his 2000 memoir, The Will to Live On, novelist Wouk (A Hole in Texas, 2004, etc.) wrote of his decades-long struggle to write The Lawgiver, which he intended to be a doorstopper about the life of Moses. This Lawgiver is a slighter, more madcap and more meta affair, focused on an effort to produce a film version of the story that would out-DeMille DeMille. Wouk has written himself into the plot: As the story opens, he's approached by a high-powered film producer to consult on a script by an untested young director, Margolit. The flurry of memos, emails, Skype-session transcripts, news clippings, etc., that make up the novel roughly cohere into a comedy of errors. The chief financier is determined to marshal algae as an alternative energy source, Margolit's favorite candidate for the role of Moses is a modest Australian actor stuck with a pernicious agent, her old shul-mates are coming out of the woodwork, and an old flame is pursuing her yet again. Wouk doesn't pretend to make this anything more than a lighthearted romp--cameos abound of Wouk's wife cautioning him not to take this Lawgiver business too seriously. Still, Wouk expends little energy connecting the dots among the algae-fuel business, the romantic subplot, Margolit's estranged father and the theology of the Moses back story, which Wouk clearly takes seriously but touches upon only lightly. At 97, Wouk still has plenty of enthusiasm for assembling the broad cast of characters that marked widescreen works like The Winds of War. The difference here is how it results in a weak, shtick-y assemblage of riffs on a fickle God and stereotypical film impresarios. A breezy romp about movies and religion that gives both short shrift. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2012 November #1

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

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 September #4

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)

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