In 701 B.C. the Assyrian empire was in its ascendancy. It had already vanquished the kingdom of Israel to the north including the capital at Samaria. It then prepared an assault on Judah and its capital at Jerusalem.
But in one of those significant events that changes the course of world history, Assyria was repelled. Jerusalem was saved until 586 B.C. when the Babylonians sacked the city, forcing its leadership class into exile.
Henry Aubin, in a major feat of scholarship, determines that Jerusalem was aided by a Kushite army from Africa which had marched northeast from the Nile valley. While the Bible attributes the Assyrian retreat to an angel and secular commentators cite pestilence, Aubin, in a meticulously documented work, demonstrates that an alliance with the African nation of Kush bolstered Jerusalem’s defences.
Kush, also known as Nubia, was located in what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan. A monarchy that existed for more than 1000 years, from 900 B.C. to A.D. 350, Kushites held sway over Egypt from 712 B.C. to about 660 B.C. Of Egypt’s 31 dynasties, this, the 25th Dynasty, is the only one that all scholars agree, was black.
The commander of the Kushite expeditionary force was Taharqa (or as the Bible calls him Tirhakah). This Kushite prince, who had his own interests in halting Assyrian expansion, likely caught the aggressors by surprise as they prepared their siege of Jerusalem.
Aubin offers a thrilling military history and a stirring political analysis of the ancient world. He also sees the event as influential over the centuries.
The Kushite rescue of the Hebrew kingdom of Judah enabled the fragile, war-ravaged state to endure, to nurse itself back to economic and demographic health, and allowed the Hebrew religion, Yahwism, to evolve within the next several centuries into Judaism. Thus emerged the monotheistic trunk supporting Christianity and Islam.
“Donna Morrissey is an absolute terrific original.”
David Adams Richards
“Morrissey stands out for her descriptive powers, her wonderful turns of phrase and the inner complexities of her characters…she writes of the Newfoundland landscape with the lyricism of a poet…Sometimes a reviewer wants to tell readers everything about a book, about all the layers of complexity, all the beauties and grace, all the revelations, but I’ll restrain my enthusiasm in this case and conclude by saying: Read this book.”
Globe and Mail
“Everything is hyper-vivid in Morrissey’s world, not excluding emotions, dreams and unresolved conflicts…Morrissey reveals the beauty and the terror of two economic realities, worlds apart from us and from each other.”
What They Wanted is “a compassionate, insightful and gripping look at a family dragged through changing times…grief is so movingly presented that readers will feel it as their own.”
Winnipeg Free Press
Donna Morrissey is the author of three previous, widely acclaimed novels, Kit’s Law, Downhill Chance and Sylvanus Now. Critics have compared her to Dickens, Hardy, and Shakespeare. She lives in Halifax.
Penguin Canada Fall 2008
What They Wanted
As a child, Sylvie Now watches in horror as her father cleaves their house in two, and floats the halves to a hamlet forty miles up the bay. The fish are gone and the family must relocate. Left behind are the graves of three dead siblings whom Sylvie had never known, but their presence persists as the source of her mother’s fear —a fear that insulates her from her mother’s love.
The move marks Sylvie’s first tentative, yet determined, step out of the outports. She fevers for the larger world, both for herself and her vulnerable brother Chris who is blessed with artistic talent. Her mother Addie is gripped by a protective love for her son and is furious with Sylvie for enticing him away.
Brother and sister journey west to the booming oilfields to earn quick, hard cash, joining rough characters in a land tortured by screaming drills, life-sucking mud, and perils at every turn. In that throbbing angry earth, their lives are changed. Yet, out of pain and piercing grief, there is reconciliation and renewal.
Donna Morrissey is a brilliant writer. Her heroic characters are ordinary people caught by cataclysmic change. We are awed as they face their challenges with humor, courage and love, humbling us with their nobility of spirit. This is a profound work set against a soaring landscape of beauty and majesty.
On the Globe & Mail’s list of Best Fiction of 2008
On the Globe & Mail Bestseller list
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