Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Last Jewish Virgin : A Novel of Fate - Janice Eidus

Summary: Lilith Zeremba, a young woman rebelling against her intellectually complex, feminist Jewish mother, is The Last Jewish Virgin. In this playful and provocative, sensual and suspenseful novel, Janice Eidus merges the timeless, romantic myth of the vampire with contemporary life in volatile New York City–and beyond. Determined to make her own way–on her own terms–as a successful Jewish woman in the world of fashion, Lilith finds herself in a place where mythology and sexuality collide. She’s drawn to two men in ways that feel dangerous and yet inevitable: the much older wildly mercurial and mesmerizing Baron Rock, and Colin Abel, a young, radiant artist determined to make the world a better place, one socially progressive painting at a time. The Last Jewish Virgin, an innovative and universal tale of longing and redemption, refreshes and reinvents the classic vampire myth for a contemporary world in which love, compassion, faith, and politics are forever evolving and intersecting in surprising and original ways. (Summary from book - Image from goodreads.com - Book given free for review)

My Review: Let me be perfectly clear. My experience with vampire lore is limited to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Twilight, and Brahm Stoker’s Dracula. In college, the latter gave me a horrific nightmare wherein my father ate a baby (yes, you read that correctly) and I’ve eschewed the gothic vampire ever since. What attracted me to this story was an NPR reviewer’s description of this novel as “Twilight...with a sense of humor, a brain, and a feminist subtext”. I enjoyed Twilight but recognize that it would have been better with all three of those things and willingly picked up this book.

The Last Jewish Virgin is the story of Lilith, a young Jewish art student who is determined to make it in the world of fashion and maintain her virginity until she has reached her academic and career goals. As this novel explores her relationship with her mother and her attraction to two enigmatic male characters, it comes closer to resembling a gothic Dracula novel than any of the sparkly vampire novels that are crowding bookstore shelves.

Lilith’s desire to keep her distance from an intimate relationship until she had achieved her academic and career goals was admirable, but it seems (and here is a similarity to Twilight) that she was ultimately willing to give it ALL up because of her irresistible attraction to a vampire. I suppose that I should have been moved by Lilith’s eventual sacrifice for her mother, but I felt that her decision was made more out of jealousy and obsession than genuine concern for her mother’s well-being.

While this book was infinitely brainier than most modern vampire novels, it didn’t feel in the least bit romantic. A feminist undercurrent is evident in the Lilith’s mother’s views on deity and feminism as it relates to Judaism, but it didn’t mesh well with the overall story. In fact, this book felt more like a random collection of the author’s interests (vampires, Judaism, fashion, art, feminism, and philosophy) twisted into a story.

The Last Jewish Virgin has an edgy, metropolitan feel that lends well to the darker subject matter, but I was turned off by the overtly sexual nature of the plot and its ultimate resolution. The frequently sexual subject matter was uncomfortable, but I kept reading because I was still interested in how everything would play out. A small portion of the story touched on the previous life of one of the characters. It was very interesting, and I wish that the author had expanded that aspect of the story, creating a past life for more of the characters. Ultimately, while this novel had its moments, it did not endear me to the genre and was a step into a world I don’t intend to visit again.

My Rating: 2.5 Stars.

For the sensitive reader: Although this book describes the act of sex only once, it is wildly sexual throughout with descriptions of erotic art, sexual dialogue, and sexual situations. The story also contains a few brief moments of language and discussions of God as gender-fluid, which might offend a more sensitive reader.

Sum it up: This disturbing and darkly erotic novel is written for a different kind of vampire lover – and may interest fans of modern, yet non-sparkly, vampire literature. I thought it was bizarre.

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