'Queen Solomon is, to invoke André Breton, convulsive in its beauty – and in its politics as well. The novel’s narrator is not just unreliable – he’s arguably psychotic, and definitely perverse. But as his thwarted dissertation wanted to argue, “perversion is just a fantastic action committed by a hurt person that taps the heart of the world.” For the past decade, Tamara Faith Berger has been quite possibly the English language’s most fearsome and fearless tapper of hearts, probing with a bloody finger the place where our libidinal and mortal drives collide with the history of racial and colonial violence. Among her contemporaries, perhaps only Virginie Despentes manages to be this devastating, but also – astonishingly – funny.'

– Barbara Browning, Author of The Gift

'Raw, powerful, political, and compassionate, albeit with sharp elbows. “There are no forsaken human beings,” writes Berger, and, indeed, through the cacophony of voices, violence, sex, and family conflict we get the shining ability of humans to survive, and the beauty that the buds of forgiveness finally enclose.'

– Amber Sparks, Author of The Unfinished World and Other Stories

 

Reviews + Interviews

Queen Solomon review by Zoe Whittall

Quill & Quire, 2018

Queen Solomon review by Donna Seaman

Booklist, 2018

Like a match to kindling, Barbra, an Ethiopian Jew of lusty pulchritude and profound trauma, ignites Berger’s unnamed, Kafka-reading, 16-year-old male narrator when she arrives for the summer at his family’s Toronto home. The narrator’s father hopes to show Barbra off as proof of the success of Operation Solomon, in which thousands of Jews were brought to Israel from Ethiopia. But Barbra asserts that this alleged mission of mercy was actually brutal and racist, the source, it seems, of the S-M proclivities she inflicts on Berger’s inflamed and terrorized narrator. For seven years he has tried to recover, besieged by mental illness and steeped in the problematic works of Holocaust survivor Ka-Tzetnik 135633, especially his notorious novel, House of Dolls (1955). Then Barbra returns, and the torment escalates. Berger’s prose is entrancing and lacerating; the deeply inquisitive and disturbing story she so commandingly tells is, by turns, hilarious, obscene, horrifying, and tragic as her damaged characters thrash out the paradoxes of Jewish identity; Israel’s standing as both sanctuary and prison; and humankind’s endlessly intricate entanglement with power and pain.

— Donna Seaman