Thursday, October 2, 2014

G428 Book Review of Rav Hisda's Daughter Apprentice by Maggie Anton

Name of Book: Rav Hisda's Daughter Apprentice

Author: Maggie Anton

ISBN: 978-0-452-29809-5

Publisher: Plume

Part of a Series: Rav Hisda's Daughter Enchantress is a sequel

Type of book: Middle East, 283-299 ME, Judaism, holy magic, holidays, travel, childbirth, Mishna, Talmud, laws, debates, love triangle, marriage, Rabbis, beginnings, Zoroastrianism, christianity, Persia, various professions, scholars, family relationships

Year it was published: 2012


Hisdadukh, blessed to be beautiful and learned, is the youngest child of Talmudic sage Rav Hisda. The world around her is full of conflict. Rome, fast becoming Christian, battles Zoroastrian Persia for dominance while Rav Hisda and his colleagues struggle to establish new Jewish traditions after the destruction of Jerusalem's Holy Temple. Against this backdrop Hisdadukh embarks on the tortuous path to become an enchantress in the very land where the word 'magic' originated.

But the conflict affecting Hisdadukh most intimately arises when her father brings his two best students before her, a mere child, and asks her which one she will marry. Astonishingly, the girl replies, “Both of them.” Soon she marries the older student, although it becomes clear that the younger one has not lost interest in her. When her new-found happiness is derailed by a series of tragedies, a grieving Hisdadukh must decide if she does, indeed, wish to become a sorceress. Based on actual Talmud texts and populated with its rabbis and their families, Rav Hisda's Daughter: Book I – Apprentice brings the world of the Talmud to life - from a woman's perspective.


There are a lot of characters in the book, which rather means that I referred a lot to Cast of Characters sheets, but the main characters include Hisdadukh, Rami and Abba. Hisdadukh, just like Rashi's daughters, is a curious and intelligent young woman who also happens to be strong, brave and isn't afraid of facing challenges. When also asked whom she wants to marry, she says both Rami and Abba. (It happens in the first few pages.) Rami is an intelligent man who seems to be humble, accepting and also loves Hisdadukh a great deal. Abba, on the other hand, is intelligent and arrogant and often tries to destroy Rami's credibility in debates. Family and friends also play a huge role in the book, in particular Hisdadukh's grandfather who helped her learn mishna and always try to be there for her. Also some sisters-in-law play a big role in teaching Hisdadukh to inscribe amulets and bowls to get rid of demons.


Time never stays the same


The story is written in first person narrative from Hisdadukh's point of view, and once I got past several pages, I couldn't help it but be sucked in. Its a bit similar to Golem and the Djinni, minus the fantasy element, although it seems that there are hints that the second book, titled Enchantress will include magic. The story heavily focused on Judaism and its topics as well as Jewish view point when it comes to some faiths. Just like I will argue about Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, I will mention that Hisdadukh was brought up in a different household therefore she's not familiar with the rituals of some faiths.

Author Information:
in Los Angeles, CA, The United States



Historical Fiction, Religion & Spirituality, Women & Gender Studies

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.

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.


Previously I have read Maggie Anton's trilogy titled Rashi's Daughters about Joheved, Miriam and Rachel. While those three were well written, I felt that they didn't really integrate the life and the history together. In this book, the author has greatly improved, combining history, cultural life of the Jews as well as secular history. I loved reading every single page of the book, loved being back in 3rd century with Hisdadukh and watching their life going by. Despite my love for the subject matter as well as the time period, towards the very end, when one has a foresight of 1800 or so years since Hisdadukh lived, its, well depressing, realizing what has happened in those 1800 years, almost regretful even. Also the book has a map, a character list, and glossary of unfamiliar words. Also the romance between Hisdadukh and another guy might need to get worked at.

I would like to thank the publisher for the chance to read and review this book

5 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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