Sunday, February 10, 2013
E-Reading Book Review of #1 Joheved by Maggie Anton
Author: Maggie Anton
Publisher: Banot Press
Part of a Series: Rashi's Daughters Trilogy
Type of book: 1069-1077, wine, France, Talmud, debates, life, education of women, gender bending activities, Judaism, Jewish vs christian life, survival
Year it was published: 2005
The first two novels in a dramatic trilogy set in eleventh-century France about the lives and loves of three daughters of the great Talmud scholar In 1068, the scholar Salomon ben Isaac returns home to Troyes, France, to take over the family winemaking business and embark on a path that will indelibly influence the Jewish world-writing the first Talmud commentary, and secretly teaching Talmud to his daughters. Joheved, the eldest of his three girls, finds her mind and spirit awakened by religious study, but, knowing the risk, she must keep her passion for learning and prayer hidden. When she becomes betrothed to Meir ben Samuel, she is forced to choose between marital happiness and being true to her love of the Talmud. Rich in period detail and drama, Joheved is a must read for fans of Tracy Chevalier's Girl With a Pearl Earring.
I liked the way Joheved was portrayed. She's intelligest, has a great passion for studying Talmud and whatnot. But when she gets married, she struggles with societal expectations as well as choosing to be more open with her husband in the risk of having to be kicked out by him, I believe. So much details as well go into the wine-making, and beliefs. Other characters were also interesting; most of them was Leah, Joheved's grandmother. I would have wanted to know more about her life and what was true or not.
Judaism is a beautiful and vital religion, its women as well.
This is in third person narrative primarily from Joheved's point of view, although we also get points of view of various characters such as Salomon, Meir and so forth. I'm not sure if the awkwardness came from reading the book on digital reader, or if it came from something else, the character transitions seemed to come without a warning, and sometimes its interesting that certain things were discovered this year. Was champagne really discovered by Salomon, that is the significance of Salomon discovering champagne. I do admit that this also tends to be a superstitious book, but lives are pretty interesting because we have rich and poor Jews who support one another. There are also converts to Judaism as well, (although with certain characters I do wish that the author would have explained better why they chose Judaism over other faiths.)
in Los Angeles, CA, The United States
Historical Fiction, Religion & Spirituality, Women & Gender Studies
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.
In 1997, as her children Emily and Ari left the house and her mother was declining with Alzheimer's Disease, Anton sought new interests. She became intrigued with the idea that Rashi, one of the greatest Jewish scholars ever, had no sons, only three daughters. Slowly but surely, she began to research the family and the time in which they lived. Much was written about Rashi, but almost nothing of the daughters, except their names and the names of their husbands. Legend has it that Rashi's daughters were learned in a time when women were traditionally forbidden to study the sacred texts. These forgotten women seemed ripe for rediscovery, and the idea of a book about them was born.
I honestly enjoyed reading this book, minus the adult parts it reminded me a lot of Little House books, except that it focused on Jewish life instead of christian like Little House books seemed to. I liked learning about the daily lives of Jews, how they saw and viewed things, as well as watching how Talmud debating and discussions played in their daily lives and the things they believed on. The book concerned the education of women and what they couldn't or could do. I also liked how positive Jewish life seemed to be, that is good things written about Jews. I was getting tired of reading books that seemed to focus on negative life, so its a very good change. The book is pro-Jewish by the way, and christian beliefs are not painted in a best light by the way. Before I forget, some things will make readers uncomfortable, such as the parents accepting the sexuality of their daughters, or the parents not being squeamish talking about sex to the children. At the center of it, is the Jews' dependence on Talmud. There is a glossary so its possible to look up words, and the author quickly explains what Talmud is as well as commentaries and whatnot so the reader, be they Jewish or christian can quickly become familiar with Talmud.
4 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.)