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The Weight of Ink [Read] ➳ The Weight of Ink By Rachel Kadish – Thomashillier.co.uk An intellectual and emotional jigsaw puzzle of a novel for readers of A S Byatt s Possession and Geraldine Brooks s People of the BookSet in London of the s and of the early twenty first century, The An intellectual and emotional jigsaw puzzle of a novel for readers of A S Byatt s Possession and Geraldine Brooks s People of the bookset in London of the s and of the early twenty first century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with The Weight PDF or a love of Jewish history As the novel opens, Helen has been summoned by a former student to view a cache of seventeenth century Jewish documents newly discovered in his home during a renovation Enlisting the help of Aaron Levy, an American graduate student as impatient as he is charming, and in a race with another fast moving team of historians, Helen embarks on one last project to determine the identity of the documents scribe, the elusive Aleph Electrifying and ambitious, sweeping in scope and intimate in tone, The Weight of Ink is a sophisticated work of historical fiction about women separated by centuries, and the choices and sacrifices they must make in order reconcile the life of the heart and mind.


10 thoughts on “The Weight of Ink

  1. Elyse Walters Elyse Walters says:

    Update News WINNER OF THE NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARDManuscripts had laid undisturbedthan 300 years A discovery had been made.Helen Watt, British historian is 64 years of age with failing health She used a cane to walk She has Parkinson s disease Helen s strength knowledge passion for history and Jewish studies stand out her ruthless commitment to her work reflect who she is but her illness is quietly just being Helen operates much bigger than her disease She is not Jewish, Update News WINNER OF THE NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARDManuscripts had laid undisturbedthan 300 years A discovery had been made.Helen Watt, British historian is 64 years of age with failing health She used a cane to walk She has Parkinson s disease Helen s strength knowledge passion for history and Jewish studies stand out her ruthless commitment to her work reflect who she is but her illness is quietly just being Helen operates much bigger than her disease She is not Jewish, but has done a lot of work with Jewish history and taught as University professor Since Helen is about to retire at the University, she would like to go out with a bang So there is some urgency and competitiveness in getting the documents she learns about to the college before anybody else gets their hands on them Ian and Brigette Easton, lived in a house from the late seventeenth century It was built in 1661 by Portuguese Jews It changed hands a few times until 1910 when Brigette s aunt bought the house and allowed it to deteriorate Brigette inherited the property from her aunt Their plan was to renovate and then open up a gallery in the house The Easton s had many building delays It seemed that Brigette s late aunt had spent decades offending members of every historical preservation group in the area After The Easton s finally obtained all the requisite permissions, the electrician found a stash of papers under their stairs He thought they were Arabic He didn t realize the papers were datedthan 300 years ago and the lettering was in Portuguese and Hebrew NOTE After finishing the book I found it a little funny that I remembered reading about Brigette s aunt offending people who died before Brigette inherited the house Thewe get to know Brigette in this story I can say the apple doesn t fall far from the tree Ian had been a student of Helen Watt at University and he called her to come examine the papers they found in their house Helen recognized some correspondence between 17th century Rabbis on the documents She told the couple Bridgette Ian , that the papers needed to be assessed before they could safely be moved.Helen tried to explain a littleto Brigette Ian of what the electrician and covered She explained that any document that contain the word God could not be thrown out in Jewish communities, but instead had to be buried as a person would be buried Brigette might have wanted to toss the found 300 year old documents away if she could have gotten away with it.so she could get permits and just remodel her old house already The woman represents everything annoying about ultra modern women today lol Synagogues, and religious Jewish communities stored these documents in troves called genizah s, until a burial could be arranged Helen was adamant that the papers found belonged to England s history and not the Jewish community She believed the documents found belonged at a major research university.Helen needed help and calls a colleague to recommend a post grad student to be her assistant Aaron Levy, American Jew, a college post grad student had been working on his dissertation, but was struggling to finish it He was trying to prove there was a Jewish connection with Shakespeare s writing Aaron, about 40 years younger than Helen, 25 ish resembled a man named Dror, from Helen s past that she had history with Whether or not it was because Aaron, reminded Helen, or Dror, from many years ago who we learnabout later in the book or because Aaron came off being a basic arrogant schmuck, Helen Aaron were not off to a good start as a cohesive happy team Helen was aware right off the bat that Aaron didn t like her much, but at least he didn t pity her The documents discloses letters written by Ester Velasquez, under the care of Rabbi Moseh HaCoen Mendes Mendes fled Portugal and went to Amsterdam after the Inquisition killed his parents and left him blind From Amsterdam, he went to London to try to help with the Jewish community There s interesting facts about the struggles of the Jewish community during this time too hiding their religious identity or at least keeping it pretty quiet but they were relatively safe in London so many Jews didn t want to rock the boat by pressing forcivil rights Ester became the secret scribe for Rabbi Mendes Her brother, Isaac, didn t want the job Ester was proficient in Latin Greek but even being literate at all was astonishing for women in the 1600 s She yearned for knowledge and to converse with the great philosophers Spinoza, Descartes, etc The story of Ester is fascinating she s MORE than JUST a woman born before her time a female radical thinker philosopher She took huge risks that would be risky today She took risks in signing the documents She took risks with her communications in all her relationships with both men and women She entered into a marriage for convenience with a homosexual that some people today would judge harshly.AndEsters inquiry about God Love the existence of God freedom to think freely religious beliefs social obligations are presented in depth I have been asking myself., If I HAD to pick a FAVORITE character in this novel..would it be HELEN. with her inner strength..I learned from this woman She made me cry Helen truly taught LIFE LESSONS so subtle but truthful emotions rise and I saw just HOW STUBBORN we as people can be CHANGE changing our lives even if we have dreams to make it better can be so darn scary Helen showed us what happens when we don t take those risks Or.Ester for OBVIOUS reasons she never EVER stopped climbing the mountain her life was a one way ticket UPshe never stopped pressing the limits of her circumstances She was incredibly inspiring Even her mistakes are forgiving Or Aaron Levy I have a special heart for Aaron I GOT HIM RIGHT AWAY It helps to be Jewish to understand his pompous arrogance I knew his attitude was just his outer shell.and that once it was stripped away we d see a beautiful struggling soul I have muchI d like to say about Aaron.but I ll leave it for discussion with my buddies who are reading this right now or have finished it Melissa.Jan.Lisa.and anyone else who wants to jump in for discussion My fear is I d give spoilers away..So. Melissa I wanted to CRY FOR Aaron TWICE.Plus.I was SO MAD AT HIM TOO I hated a choice he made.YIKESForgive me. nobody has to read this review.I see I wrote it out of NEED to complete my OWN EXPERIENCE trying to I DON T THINK I CAN CHOOSE A FAVORITE CHARACTER.I have a soft spot of all of them I think this book is extraordinary, brilliant, ambitious, and exquisite I took my time reading it I looked up philosophers Spinoza etc I thought about it when I wasn t reading it I wrote Melissa private messages who read it before me as I was dying to talk about it I loved the scenes where Aaron is writing his friend Marisa who went to work on aKibbutz in Israel The author got EVERYTHING about Kibbutzim life right I started craving my tomato and cucumber breakfast called the dairy meal The volunteers staying on a Kibbutz would have contests with the Israelis as to who could dice their tomato cucumber fastest The Americans always lost BUT by chance we did win.they had to give us a yummy chocolate bar The Weight of Ink is a heavy weight book intellectually challenging and satisfying..Rachel Kadish is AMAZING The only time I had thoughts that maybe this book could have been cut shorter was once when Ester, Mary, Thomas,and John.were on their boat on the river I m not sure why I felt that part went on too long yet I actually liked it too My thoughts though were on another part of the story curious as to what would develop The SUPPORTING CHARACTERS are memorable, too The dialogue is intimate engrossing authenticThe INNER THOUGHTS of THE THREE MAIN CHARACTERS Helen, Ester, and Aaron are painfully butterflies in my gut WONDERFUL There is history Philosophy Jewish history theology exploring christianity and Judaism Interfaith relationships are explored homosexuality the existence of God 17th century life conditions of the times The plague, and the fire in London 20th century Kibbutz life in Israel RICHNESS in SUBSTANCE The roles of women are explored There is mystery, tragedy, triumph, dreams and disappointments..and GORGEOUS POETIC imagery POWERFUL and WONDERFUL Where words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain, for they breathe truth that breathe their words in pain THANK YOU RACHEL RADISH


  2. Jaline Jaline says:

    This book is a journey through time 1600 s, mid 1900 s and early 2000 and space Amsterdam, Israel, and London whose only requirement is that we give ourselves over to the story being told and flow with it.I loved this book The writing is exceptional and although it deals with history and philosophy primarily, it is not in any way dull or boring The characters are extraordinarily well developed and contain such a treasure trove of human thoughts and feelings on so many different levels, t This book is a journey through time 1600 s, mid 1900 s and early 2000 and space Amsterdam, Israel, and London whose only requirement is that we give ourselves over to the story being told and flow with it.I loved this book The writing is exceptional and although it deals with history and philosophy primarily, it is not in any way dull or boring The characters are extraordinarily well developed and contain such a treasure trove of human thoughts and feelings on so many different levels, that their very integrity led me to a deeper understanding of each one s inner nature And my ownI care neither to defend nor attack him Much as I detest the man, I ll never know the full circumstances behind his choices Life is muddy Denying that thinking there s only one noble path above the fray can be a poisonous approach to life The story is told primarily from two points of view Ester, a young Jewish woman in the 1600 s whose passion for thought and philosophy in a time when women were impossibly shackled to hearth and home, grabbed my heart and held it through the entire book Helen, an historian who is 64 and in the grip of an aggressive and accelerated onset of Parkinson s disease, touched a profound level of empathy within me I deeply admired her courage and dedication to the one opportunity remaining for her to shed light on a little known aspect of historical significance.The relationships between the people in this book are so well written that I felt I was evolving along with them or dissolving, as was sometimes the case.This book is a long, satisfying, fulfilling read and I highly recommend it to those who are willing to invest their time in learning something new, seeing life and living through different lenses, and experiencing the different times, places, and cultures found within these pages.Edited to add Thank you to Goodreads friend Iona whose fabulous and enthusiastic review of this book caught my attention and caused me to put it on my priority reading list


  3. Ioana Ioana says:

    Unlimited stars WOW SWOON Fanning self Holy Mother of Books Absolutely awestruck by the pure MAGNIFICENCE of this BRILLIANT mellifluous poetic historically rich masterpiece Unadulterated GENIUS Whoa AAA I m sure I could not string enough accolades together to do justice to Kadish s work I had such a hard time thinking of where to begin this review because Weight of Ink is too incredible, really, to describe, at least by a non poet like myself Nothing I could say could ever do just Unlimited stars WOW SWOON Fanning self Holy Mother of Books Absolutely awestruck by the pure MAGNIFICENCE of this BRILLIANT mellifluous poetic historically rich masterpiece Unadulterated GENIUS Whoa AAA I m sure I could not string enough accolades together to do justice to Kadish s work I had such a hard time thinking of where to begin this review because Weight of Ink is too incredible, really, to describe, at least by a non poet like myself Nothing I could say could ever do justice to this work and I feel like even trying to talk about it in mere human language is doing it a disservice But I ll try something, because in the very least, I hope to convince you to make some time for this book in your life.First off, The Weight of Ink is, quite literally, weighty At over 550 dense, long pages, it takes Herculean effort, attention and dedication to get through I know many of us like to read widely and don t always appreciate savoring a book for months, but my recommendation would be, if you re not ready to spend weeks on end reading nothing but this book, to set aside some time each week while also continuing your regular reading I took an extended vacation this summer to Israel, where this book is partially set and was happy to bask in these glorious pages without other distractions, but I rarely have that leisure or patience at hand on my regular days Whatever you do, my recommendation is to please be patient with this book The pleasures it offers forth are profound, but not if you approach it as a book to finish This novel is an experience that is best imbibed to the core.A very quick synopsis the story alternates timelines between modern day England and the story of academic historian Helen , Helen s coming of age in Israel some decades ago, and the 1660s Portugal England Jewish community.But really, this is a story about BOOKS, reading, knowledge, and the passion that each of us, as readers, holds for these intangible but empowering and delectable pleasures This is why it s so important to let it seep through your entire being while reading, and not to rush Helen is a historian who has come across a newly discovered genizah, a trove of Hebrew Jewish writings from a 1660s Jewish English household, and The Weight of Ink details her journey into the life of the scribe who has set down these words a woman who may have had previously undisclosed links to Spinoza, a Jew excommunicated from his community for his heretical beliefs Helen s world, the scribe s world, Spinoza s world all revolve around books reading documents And that s just the beginning again, I have no words really to adequately describe the poetic nature of Kadish s words, but her language is divinely inspired and does full justice to her themes.There may be other books that I consider just as brilliant but right now they ve all been eclipsed from memory The Weight of Ink is not just by far my most favorite book of the year, it may be the favorite for a lifetime No other has ever paid such reverent homage to the art of books, knowledge, and reading


  4. Liz Liz says:

    Thank heavens for book club selections that force me to read books I ve been meaning to read and keep skipping A dense historical fiction, The Weight of Ink tackles a female scribe for a rabbi in 17th century London The Jews have just been allowed back after 400 years of banishment from England The rabbi, a survivor of the Spanish Inquisition, has come from Amsterdam to help educate the English Jews He is forced to use an unusually educated young woman as his scribe when her brother runs off Thank heavens for book club selections that force me to read books I ve been meaning to read and keep skipping A dense historical fiction, The Weight of Ink tackles a female scribe for a rabbi in 17th century London The Jews have just been allowed back after 400 years of banishment from England The rabbi, a survivor of the Spanish Inquisition, has come from Amsterdam to help educate the English Jews He is forced to use an unusually educated young woman as his scribe when her brother runs off Told from a trio of voices, including a 20th century female history professor on the verge of retirement and her American assistant, we learn not only the history of the time but also the philosophical discussions of the 17th century I admit to having to google Spinoza to learnabout his theories And I appreciate the lengths Kaddish went to ensure she understood the philosophers of the day as well Make sure to read all the way to the end for the interview with her We learn the backstory for each of the main characters Each, in their own way, are strong individuals, bucking expectations Kaddish does an amazing job of giving us a true sense of time and place It really drew me in and I found I kept reading muchin any given day than I had planned to read Her ability to describe London during the Plague was intense in its realism This isn t a light book but it s in no way dull or boring It totally fulfills my main requirement of an historical fiction, which is to teach me about a time I know little or nothing about Anyone who enjoyed Geraldine Brooks People of the Book or Year of Wonders will also enjoy his Actually, any fan of historical fiction will do well to add this book to their queue


  5. Violet wells Violet wells says:

    The Weight of Ink clones AS Byatt s Possession Academics on the trail of a hidden narrative footprinted in a slow reveal of discovered manuscripts Firstly, I ought to point out I wasn t a massive fan of Possession I enjoyed its mischievous elaboration of standard romance fiction but found most of the characters flimsy This too in many ways is standard romance fiction within an ambitious framework but with less, if any, mischief It begins with our two academics, Helen, a sour ageing spinster The Weight of Ink clones AS Byatt s Possession Academics on the trail of a hidden narrative footprinted in a slow reveal of discovered manuscripts Firstly, I ought to point out I wasn t a massive fan of Possession I enjoyed its mischievous elaboration of standard romance fiction but found most of the characters flimsy This too in many ways is standard romance fiction within an ambitious framework but with less, if any, mischief It begins with our two academics, Helen, a sour ageing spinster and Aaron an obnoxious self regarding playboy Needless to say, they don t get on However, it s perhaps too telegraphed from the beginning that this conflict will resolve itself in a crowd pleasing fashion Possibly the part of the novel I most enjoyed was an extended flashback to Helen s youth when, despite not being Jewish, she volunteers to participate on a kibbutz in Israel where she falls in love A bigger problem for me was the subject of their investigation, Ester Ester is the scribe of a rabbi blinded by the Inquisition in Spain She arrives in London after her mother and father die in a fire at their house in Amsterdam After a while we become privy to Ester s thoughts She s not buying the conventional notion of God as exalted mail order service, but I suspect most maids and washerwomen thought along similar lines in the privacy of their own minds We re talking about a period in history when Christianity was as zealous and unforgiving in its doctrine as the Gestapo To think few committed heresies in the privacy of their own mind is like believing every single German in the 1940s believed the Jews should be exterminated Ester as pioneering philosopher and feminist just didn t hack it for me A novel which succeeded much better on this theme is Elizabeth Gilbert s The Signature of all Things because Gilbert convinced me her heroine did have an extraordinary mind I didn t buy Esta s extraordinary mind There s a sense towards the end that neither did the author and so shoehorns in a new lead to potentially give her farhistorical importance I wasintrigued by her wild mother and amorous grandmother who are both given short shrift There s the ghost of another novel prowling through this novel which the author chose not to write but which I suspect may have been the better option Philosophy during the heyday of Christianity not alchemised through art was hardly the most creative medium for a busy mind and it s hard to get excited by any of Ester s ideas I couldn t help feeling acompelling subject for her once she had taken exception to the conventional Jewish notion of God would be to question the nature of Jewish identity bereaved of its religious structure, especially since as a Jew she and those close to her are continually persecuted Instead, she s arrowed into hair splitting theological technicalities which are hard to get excited about In short, she seemed to me too much a construct with not enough identifiable humanity to her There s a lot of very good writing in this book but sometimes I found the author guilty of insecurely overstraining for profundity It was also a little too safe and formulaic for me I didn t hate it but neither did I love it


  6. Melissa Crytzer Fry Melissa Crytzer Fry says:

    This is one of those books that, when you close its covers upon reading the final pages, you know you ve read something special It is also the kind of book that, days later, sinks even deeper into your subconscious and makes you realize just how impressive a literary accomplishment it is.I was immediately intrigued by the dual period style and the book jacket s promise of a story about two women of remarkable intellect I should note, up front, that rarely in dual period novels do I find both This is one of those books that, when you close its covers upon reading the final pages, you know you ve read something special It is also the kind of book that, days later, sinks even deeper into your subconscious and makes you realize just how impressive a literary accomplishment it is.I was immediately intrigued by the dual period style and the book jacket s promise of a story about two women of remarkable intellect I should note, up front, that rarely in dual period novels do I find both stories equally compelling I generally feel one is stronger and often favor the historical storyline, but in this novel, they both carried tremendous weight and were done so well I suppose the beautiful cover drew me to this book as well, and the title with the word ink in it was part of the attraction as I was an avid letter writer when I was younger with pen pals from across the world I assumed and was correct that there would be epistolary elements to the book as well another thing I love But once wrapped inside the pages of this book, I was gripped by the incredible characters, full of depth and flaws, wants and desires, facing obstacles and celebrating triumphs And did I mention the writing The writing is gorgeous, poetic, lyrical and so adept at reaching inside the characters heads and hearts As my friend Jaline s reviewsaid better than I have, here The characters are extraordinarily well developed and contain such a treasure trove of human thoughts and feelings on so many different levels, that their very integrity led me to a deeper understanding of each one s inner nature It is a long book 560 pages with some very small print in some parts and also includes a great deal of historical background, period language, and religious philosophical themes BUT these elements happen to be the VERY reasons I loved this book so much.1 Length With the publishing industry s typical 320 page standards, I often feel that many books feel rushed and underdeveloped emotionally Admittedly, some slim books still portray that emotional authenticity, but many do not This book takes its time with a slow unspooling of history and character and flashback And it s all the richer for it At the end, you will feel you know Helen Watt, Aaron Levy and Ester Velasquez.2 Historical background period language The book jacket reveals that this book focuses on Jewish documents and, therefore one can assume, Jewish faith I grew up in an Evangelical protestant area of rural Pennsylvania, so I came to this book with very little understanding of Judaism, Jewish history, or culture I knew not a single person of Jewish faith growing up, and when I attended a Methodist college, still lacked exposure to this religion That was NOT a detraction to reading this story it was quite the opposite This book taught me just how deep my ignorance was regarding the historic and continued persecution of those of Jewish faith not just during WWII I am humbled for the learning opportunity.3 Religion If you are at all interested in religion, and maybe even if you re not how and why people have faith and why others do not, or why others have an alternative kind of faith this is an excellent book that poses so many fabulous questions.4 Philosophy I will be honest I absolutely abhorred the philosophy classes I took as part of a liberal arts curriculum in undergrad And yet, I truly enjoyed the philosophical components of this book of which there are many, and they are as you might expect written in realistic, stilted philosophical language But they were so integral to this story, they fascinated me.I was hooked by this book immediately, so when I saw an incredible e book deal, I bought it in addition to the hardcopy my husband bought me for Christmas That means I am able to share some of the highlights from my Kindle on my Goodreads review I hope you ll enjoy them And if you can t see them, let me know and I will paste some into the body here.This really is a story of intellect in so many ways the literary way in which it s written the exposure to current academia which includes some fun being poked at the rigors of academic research and the intellect of the characters, themselves.It is not a light read But it is satisfying and sustaining It s the kind of story you want to commit to and by that, I mean, don t rush it Take your time Savor the incredible literary language and metaphors, get to know the characters and their secrets, enjoy the slow unraveling of an interesting mystery rooted in historically accurate details, enjoy the new historical insight you may gain.If you enjoy dual past present storylines, literary fiction, Shakespearean references, unapologetic women, and a mystery hidden within, read this book If you love the written word and others who love the written word, read this book I am still awed by the author s ability to create prickly and, by many standards, unlikeable characters that, by the end of the book, you literally will be crying with for


  7. Cheri Cheri says:

    June 8, 1691 11 Sivan of the Hebrew year 5451 Richmond, SurreyLet me begin afresh Perhaps, this time, to tell the truth For in the biting hush of ink on paper, where truth ought raise its head and speak without fear, I have long lied I have naught to defend my actions Yet though my heart feels no remorse, my deeds would confess themselves to paper now, as the least of tributes to him whom I once betrayed In this silenced house, quill and ink do not resist the press of my hand, and paper June 8, 1691 11 Sivan of the Hebrew year 5451 Richmond, SurreyLet me begin afresh Perhaps, this time, to tell the truth For in the biting hush of ink on paper, where truth ought raise its head and speak without fear, I have long lied I have naught to defend my actions Yet though my heart feels no remorse, my deeds would confess themselves to paper now, as the least of tributes to him whom I once betrayed In this silenced house, quill and ink do not resist the press of my hand, and paper does not flinch Let these pages compass, at last, the truth, though none read them Two women, one living in seventeenth century London, the other in the twenty first century, whose stories, eventually, become intertwined when a collection of papers that had been long hidden in a private home surfaces Helen Watt learns of these papers when she receives a phone call from a former student, and she brings her new assistant, Aaron Levy, along to determine their importance Helen comes across as quietly dismissive of Aaron, and Aaron isopenly dismissive of her Dismissive of the years Helen has spent, the knowledge she holds, the processes required, the level of careful attention to detail in handling these papers, as well as careful transcription and translation that are required He s still feeling the wounds of not having risen to the greater heights he believes are his right, and seems to blame her for wanting to stay actively involved in her life s passion, despite her failing healthBelow the rabbi s sprawling signature and the initial of the scribe Aleph, was the word, decorated with a small, elegant scroll, Finis But turn the page upside down and, in the same elegant hand, the Hebrew read, Here I begin With 592 beautifully written, densely packed pages, this was not a fast read, but it was a very moving one I loved the unveiling of this story, of these previously undiscovered historical, religious writings, especially against the twenty first century impressions, and a story that was sprinkled with a bit of intrigue driving the story forward, providing a depth of the thoughts and feelings of these characters that really brings them, and this story, to lifeOur life is a walk in the night, we know not how great the distance to the dawn that awaits us And the path is strewn with stumbling blocks and our bodies are grown tyrannous with weeping yet we lift our feet We lift our feet Many thanks to Melissa, Jaline, and Elyse whose reviews prompted and reminded me to read this National Jewish Book Award winner, the links to their reviews are below


  8. Kelly Kelly says:

    I know Possession I ve read Possession You, madam, are no Possession.Do not name drop unless you know what you re doing, book marketers In this case, you set the bar far too high and honestly never convinced me I was at the right bar to begin with Never mind the truly, madly, deeply overwritten metaphors that absolutely blossom from nearly every page The historical part seemed interesting, but I can just as easily read, you know, an actual history on the topic, so you ve gotta have somethin I know Possession I ve read Possession You, madam, are no Possession.Do not name drop unless you know what you re doing, book marketers In this case, you set the bar far too high and honestly never convinced me I was at the right bar to begin with Never mind the truly, madly, deeply overwritten metaphors that absolutely blossom from nearly every page The historical part seemed interesting, but I can just as easily read, you know, an actual history on the topic, so you ve gotta have somethingthan that for me I will admit that I decided I was done nothan a quarter of the way through so perhaps she got her act together later, but I somehow doubt it I ve been at this particular rodeo of purple prose and Dramatic Foreshadowing one too many times before It seldom surprises me I wish publishers understood better what people liked about the biggest best sellers We could all avoid a lot of needless disappointment in the Let s Find Or Manufacture a Copycat mill that follows Don t make the cookie when you don t know the secret ingredient That s all I m saying


  9. Ingrid Ingrid says:

    I ve really struggled with this book Hidden in all the layers of words that I had to plough through lay a most beautiful story It is for this story that I went on reading, it touched my heart It seems to me that the author couldn t choose between non fiction and a novel which weakened both I m hesitating between 3 and 4 stars, but because I can see the enormous effort I choose 4.


  10. Stephen P Stephen P says:

    I don t need plot Most of the time I choose books that don t have such a thing or that I spend time performing rituals and rites in hope that one won t appear So what is it with this book that it is about plot, wonderfully plotted, yet I cannot leave it for long or if I do I can t wait to return.What I think, a hazy belief, is that Kadish has skimmed along the line where story abuts literature A thin porous line it can be Often, a work where story is so predominant it is just that a nice or I don t need plot Most of the time I choose books that don t have such a thing or that I spend time performing rituals and rites in hope that one won t appear So what is it with this book that it is about plot, wonderfully plotted, yet I cannot leave it for long or if I do I can t wait to return.What I think, a hazy belief, is that Kadish has skimmed along the line where story abuts literature A thin porous line it can be Often, a work where story is so predominant it is just that a nice or interesting tale, heartfelt or sentimental So, what is it and what is it about this book that lifts it above and past this line Kadish s style is so engaging, so clean, that rarely did I know that I was reading If someone pointed out that I was I would have been surprised Normally I know when I m reading I m bright in this way There is a book with pages and words running across, a pair of glasses on the bridge of my nose Not so here Stop a moment You ll need rest This review is long It is this spare and telling vernacular which does not show a similarity to the great works of literature, the grand wordings, the poetic phrasings Does that mean Of course there have been others.The content is ruthlessly engaging A young girl, Esther is adopted by a Rabbi in Amsterdam in the 1600 s after her parents die in a fire He leaves the Jewish community there to venture to London, bringing she and her brother along, to the help the congregating refugee Jews to follow their faith closely Her mind is bursting with the curiosity of learning, of thought The Rabbi had been blinded as a young man during the Spanish Inquisition in Portugal In London he no longer has a scribe to write out his thoughts for him She becomes the scribe against Jewish law for a woman to participate in the religion at this level She is honored to serve her beloved, learned, kind Rabbi Hours each day she writes as he speaks and thinks She thinks They talk Women are not supposed to be doing this, They are not to be thinking about these things morality, philosophy, religion, much less scribing for a pious Rabbi Theshe learns theher mind reaches for that which is true for her, an honesty that perches and resides within An independence of thought Her thinking is pure and vast There is no place for this Not for her Not for a woman Her thoughts being kindled, in large part by being not only mentored by him but as one who is to be respected for her thoughts, understandings, ability to assimilate, has burst into a rapacious hungered flame She lives for thought She lives for the hope that she might be able to communicate with other thinkers, others whose lives have been devoted to thought There was life in London There was life in her And desire A flame leapt in her, defiant of the bounds which she prisoned it The thoughts were heretical, and they were her own A frightening alluring hunger surged in her Somewhere across this bridge, beckoning her, were books that would be hers to explore and question and yes, argue against for in her new daring now nothing seemed impossible, and she allowed herself to admit even this that she thought the sages scant in their exploration of what she most wished to understand the will that sets the world in motion and governed it Shutting her eyes, letting the crowd steer her, she saw behind closed lids the books that awaited her, the thinkers collected voices inked onto each crowded page An ecstasy of ink, every paragraph laboring to outline the shape of the world The yellow light of a lamp on leaves of paper, the ivory black impress of words reasoning, line by line Even if this book didn t have other admirable qualities this young woman, is one of the most forceful, appealing characters I have met She is so much of what I would like to be, to have been, the character I love to read about win or lose But how stifled she found herself as she grew, by jewish tradition, the violence of anti Semitism, the bottom tier of social status forced upon women especially if they didn t, Marry well, and had financial means We re still in England, no less wet and foggy, but it is 2005 We are settled in the world of academia, where a stodgy, icy, resentful professor nearing her retirement is studying a trove of pages from the 1600 s which has been presented to her by a former student renovating a historic house he bought, and a young post graduate student who has been assigned to her He is coy, shiftless, and somewhat in love with himself Others, especially women, are objects for him to use to get his narcissistic needs met His thesis on Shakespeare has stalled similar to the professor s health gradually stalling But she is determined to take the disorder of these manuscripts and turn them into a significant find that nearing the end of her career will establish her, her name, in a field, a world, dominated by men.The story in different chapters goes back and forth between these worlds There is nothing seamless about this on the surface It so easily might have been This book has, and rightfully so, been compared to, A.S Byatt s Possession The storylines follow similar paths Two markings where Kadish veers off where Byatt s writing style is precise, articulate, at times a silken touch to the fingers, Kadish s prose has a coarser feel, heated and leveraged It is composed of blood s pounding, the tense grab of the necessity of choices and their consequences It seems right that Kadish must have been there too and speaks with the fire of experience Turning to the sentimental to engross a set of genre readers would have been such an easy fall She writes here in my view for the integrity of the writing itself Her considerable skills are devoted to this cause The scars snaking down my hand where I held the book while reading attests I believe my struggle with this book is that in its danger of yielding to the sentimental it may have crossed that porous line at times unbeknownst to me since I was enraptured with Esther s character, the nerve crushing violence, the suspense, the symbolic and metaphoric activity Then the deft crossing back to 2005 The struggles of thesemodern characters, not drawn to mimic the 1600 s section but in its own right to addressmodern problems in a similarity that evades me but I know is somehow still there.I think there might be some who read it and who might think it is mere genre, others may read it and see a powerful piece of literature, in its own vernacular, taking place I m giving it 4 stars too unsure and probably cowardly to give it that last one It is there just beneath my bed, its faded blink only barely out of my touch


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