Book Reviews at roman history books and more…

in association with, click hereDaughter of Lazarus
by Albert A. Bell Jr.

This is the first novel written by Albert Bell, and having read All Roads Lead to Murder, his most recent work, I'm a bit disappointed. It did not grip my attention as much.

However, readers who have enjoyed Quo Vadis might like this book.

The protagonist is Lorci, who was sold into slavery at the age of five by her stepfather, and eventually ends up in the house Marcus Aquilius Regulus, a Roman senator of ill and cruel repute. There, she has to play the flute at entertainments, as well as entertain Regulus' guests and friends in other ways.

From the steward Nestor, a Jewish slave by the given name of Jacob, who has converted to Christianity, she learns that the medaillon which her mother gave her and which she has been able to hold onto all her life, shows the image of Christ, and that the Aramaic inscription on the back tells that she is the daughter of Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus.

The actual story takes place between A.D. 80 and 87, during the reign of Domitian. Again, we meet Pliny the Younger, who has befriended Lorci after a joint experience of the eruption of Vesuvius, told in flashbacks. Another important person in her life becomes Martial, the poet. To say more about their relationship and its consequences would spoil the suspense. All Romans of note in the book, including Regulus, are historical figures.

Left for dead during an epidemic of the plague, she automatically receives her freedom, and for several years leads a quiet life in the country, until she emerges and has the ill fortune to come to Domitian's attention, with disastrous consequences. Rescued by Domitilla, Domitian's cousin, she is drawn into a circle of Christians, but not quite ready to accept Christianity for herself.

The climax of the novel comes when she gets caught up in the feud between Domitian and Domitilla's husband, Flavius Clemens, another relative, and in Domitian's persecution of the Christians, as it is portrayed here. In the end, Lorci becomes the true daughter of Lazarus.

The arc from Lazarus to Martial and Domitian seems a bit contrived, but in the book's favor one has to say that the story moves easily and at times grippingly, and the author is giving us a good idea of Rome in the Flavian era. The ending is rather abrupt and grating however, and one would have wished Mr. Bell a better editor.

Mr. Bell, who is a scholar of early Christianity, here takes the position of Eusebius with regard to the persecution of Christians by Domitian. However, the evidence is scant. More likely, it was part of Domitian's attitude and actions towards the Jews, which is well documented and mostly had financial origins. Pat Southern, in her biography Domitian, Tragic Tyrant, writes that “…the tales [about Domitilla] can be dismissed as inventions of Christian martyrology and it should be remembered with what zeal martyrdom was sought and revered -- the ultimate validation of faith.”

Irene Hahn

© 2002 Irene B. Hahn

Daughter of Lazarus
by Albert A. Bell Jr.
An Author Guild Edition
Paperback, 300 pages
ISBN: 0595007295 (August 2000)
List Price $17.95

All Roads Lead to Murder:
A Case from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger

By Albert A. Bell Jr.
Illustrated with drawings by William Martin Johnson
from the first edition of Ben Hur by Lew Wallace
Hard Cover, 246 Pages
ISBN: 097130453X
High Country Publishers, Ltd., Boone, NC 2002
List Price US$21.95

see review   Mr. Bell's Website

Other reviews
Articles & Essays by group members & friends

Roman History Reading Group
Irene's Blog

Valid XHTML 1.0!

Google logo

Search the Internet Search this site