Wednesday, March 6, 2013

E-Reading Book Review of #3 Rachel by Maggie Anton

Name of Book: Rachel

Author: Maggie Anton

ISBN: 9780452295681

Publisher: Plume Publishing

Part of a Series: Rashi's Daughters

Type of book: 1091-1105, France, Medieval, Talmud, Crusades, secular vs Torah, divorce, aging, death, clothing, traveling, Sepharad, courtly love, adultery

Year it was published: 2009

Summary:

The dramatic final book in the epic historical trilogy about the lives and loves of the three daughters of the great Talmud scholar Rashi

Rachel is the youngest and most beautiful daughter of medieval Jewish scholar Salomon ben Isaac, or ?Rashi.? Her father?s favorite and adored by her new husband, Eliezer, Rachel?s life looks to be one of peaceful scholarship, laughter, and love. But events beyond her control will soon threaten everything she holds dear. Marauders of the First Crusade massacre nearly the entire Jewish population of Germany, and her beloved father suffers a stroke. Eliezer wants their family to move to the safety of Spain, but Rachel is determined to stay in France and help her family save the Troyes yeshiva, the only remnant of the great centers of Jewish learning in Europe.

As she did so effectively in Joheved and Miriam, Maggie Anton vividly brings to life the world of eleventh-century France and a remarkable Jewish woman of dignity, passion, and strength.

Characters:

I don't think the book itself was very character driven, or that characters change throughout the book, at least that wasn't my impression. Rachel stays strong when it comes to her beliefs, but I learn very little of her personality and there was only telling of the sisters' relationship to one another instead of showing. I also couldn't understand one thing: the author mentions the difficulty some have understanding a character when they have a stroke, but yet the character speaks and acts normally! How can it be possible?

Theme:

G-d does punish those who desecrate or kill Jews.

Plot:

This is written in third person narrative, primarily from Rachel's and Eliezer's points of view. This book takes place few years after Miriam is finished and Rachel has now a son and a daughter and unsuccessfully hopes for more children. Again we are thrust into the now familiar Hot and Cold Fairs, the Talmud discussions, and so forth. Some things seem a little too convenient, and I am curious if a certain nobleman was truly in love with Rachel or was it part of the author's imagination? However, the Crusades disrupt the familiar and it seems towards the end that things get worse for the Jews after those times.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)
born
in Los Angeles, CA, The United States

gender
female

website
http://www.rashisdaughters.com

genre
Historical Fiction, Religion & Spirituality, Women & Gender Studies

influences
Talmud study

member since
June 2008

About this author:

Maggie Anton was born Margaret Antonofsky in Los Angeles, California. Raised in a secular, socialist household, she reached adulthood with little knowledge of her Jewish religion. All that changed when David Parkhurst, who was to become her husband, entered her life, and they both discovered Judaism as adults. That was the start of a lifetime of Jewish education, synagogue involvement, and ritual observance. In 2006, Anton retired from being a clinical chemist in Kaiser Permanente's Biochemical Genetics Laboratory to become a fulltime writer.

In the early 1990's, Anton learned about a women's Talmud class taught by Rachel Adler, now a professor at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. Nearly every Wednesday for five years, she and about six other women met around Rachel's dining room table to study Tractate Berachot.

Opinion:

In a way I did like reading the book, although I admit that it doesn't have the magic of the first and second books; I liked learning more about Talmud, and I liked that the focus was on Judaism. Towards beginning or middle of it, I felt that the book tended to be boring and I couldn't help but wonder when it will be over. That is the book had the air of finality through it. I took Crusades class in college and read the first person accounts of martyrdom and nearly cried. The author does use strict wording in describing what the characters have done in this situation. It's also interesting that the texts she chooses to use were often used by a christian friend towards me and I couldn't answer them. (Thanks for the possible answers!) The book does tend to be negative towards christians and I think a lot of them will take offense at what they are being called in the book. (The christians in the past have bad names for Jews too, so its fair I suppose.) If you are interested in the daily life of Judaism that she presents, I would recommend for this book to be read. I also wished that there was a glossary of who's who, or at least the previous plots some characters played in because I couldn't remember a lot of them!

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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