Balman, Alexander. Rebecca’s Choice: The Surprising Sequel to the Tale of Ivanhoe. Jerusalem: Urim, 2010. 256 pp. (9781936068197)
This reviewer, also a Rebecca, was a keen reader of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, not only for its romance and the beauty of its prose, but also out of appreciation for its positive Jewish stereotype. This Rebecca, however, found herself more than a little disappointed that Scott’s Rebecca didn’t run off with the impassioned knight Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert (as this Rebecca most probably would have done …). So it was with this shameful, never-confessed secret in mind that I embraced the chance to read Alexander Balman’s sequel, Rebecca’s Choice.
Balman’s story begins before the very end of Scott’s novel at the point where Brian de Bois-Guilbert has died as a victim of his ‘contending passions.’ Balman, himself dissatisfied with Scott’s conclusion, renders de Bois-Guilbert as merely unconscious. The knight convinces Rebecca that he allowed Ivanhoe to injure him in order to save her, and Rebecca is faced with having to rescue her former enemy. Together with Rebecca’s father and with the knight disguised as a Jewish traveler they escape England. Hot on their heels are Sir Brian’s Templar brothers who are intent on capturing him before he discloses the secrets of their order.
What follows is a page-turning, high-paced adventure that journeys throughout the Near East, filled with danger and surprise and featuring knights, pirates, slaves, assassins, and even Maimonides!
I won’t ruin the story by telling you what becomes of Brian de Bois-Guilbert, or his strange relationship to Daniel the proselyte. But I can tell you that Rebecca lives happily ever after…
Balman’s novel cannot be compared to Scott’s Ivanhoe for the latter, in terms of quality of prose, narrative structure and historical background is by far the superior work. But taken on its own merits this is an entertaining story with particular appeal for a Jewish audience.