A dense historical novel that maybe goes on a bit too long, it's a fascinating look at a familial structure in Italy. This book is a time investment, but it's worth it. Just... don't think too much about the details Grazia lays bare for her son in this missive.
I bought this book a couple of years ago when I was reading on the Renaissance all year. Daedalus offered it, so I figured it was worth a try. It sort of was. It's certainly full of historical information, in a novelized form. And that's why I didn't finish it. I like my history "straight". But I'm weird that way.
An absolutely fascinating compulsively readable novel about a sixtennth- century woman who would be considered outstanding in any era.
I am a Chassidic Jew as well as a lover of historical fiction. As I have lately been drawn into the world of Renaissance Italy, this book seemed like a great fit for my tastes! Isabella D'Este! A Jewish woman's secret book!
The book began interestingly enough, even with the slightly boring letter to Grazia's son which opens the book and establishes the form and point of view. A traditional Jewish Italian family is caught during a pogrom as a result of a blood libel during Pesach (which, most years, takes place during the same week as Easter). This is well portrayed. Almost every Jew is familiar with the Passover Seder and pogroms due to a blood libel are ubiquitous even today. (A "classic" blood libel is the claim that the local Jewish community kills Christian children so as to use their blood to make matzah - unleavened bread eaten over Pesach. However, there are quite a number of variations on this theme and they don't always occur over Pesach.)
But as I continued reading, the book began to ring of falsehood and, frankly, incredibly poor research on the part of Park. Because it has been a while since I read this book and I am basically writing this review so as to try to ameliorate the inexplicably imbecilic details presented as "factual research," I will give only one example of the many glaring errors within the book:
Throughout the book, the term "Wad Kalilla"pops up here and there. At first I thought this must be some strange Jewish Italian Medieval instition I've never heard of. But as I read further, I began to recognize the situations which required this Arabic sounding organization. (There is not letter "W" in Hebrew OR Yiddish OR, I am almost 100% positive, Ladino - the Jewish secular language spoken in Jewish communities around the Mediterranean.)
Wad Kalilla - Vaad Kehilla! Now how can anyone claim to have done research and make such a ridiculous mistake? I am confused. Is Park Jewish? If so, shame on her. Is she not Jewish? If so, even MORE shame on her! If you want to create an exotic heroine, do so! But research what you are portraying first!
OK, so people can mistakes with cultures they are unfamiliar with. So I decided to continue on with the book. A few days later, I realized I had made little progress in reading the book. So I picked it up and tried to get involved with the story.
No could do. I found the story boring, character development minimal at best, and the epistolary style very stilted.
You know, I could have forgiven most of the mistakes if the book had been interesting.
A little bit too graphic for my taste, but otherwise an excellent tale of a Jewish girl growing up in Medieval Italy.
A historical novel with Renaissance Jewish Heroine as captivating as Scarlett O Hara. Simply irresistible!
Historical fiction set in Renaissance Italy -- the struggles of a Jewish woman to survive an era of devastating court politics, religious intolerance and inflexible social rules.
The book is set in 16th century and is about a Jewish Italian family. The story is a personal history written by a mother to her son so that he may know her better. So it touches on what it was like to be Jewish in Italy at that time, but it also is about the loves and lives of the family. I liked it. Its a bit like a soap opera, but well written.
IS A SWEEPING TALE OF INTRIGUE AND ROMANCE SET IN A TIME RIFE WITH COURT POLITICS, PAPAL CHICANERY, RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE AND INVIOLABLESOCIAL RULES