Thursday, August 13, 2009
Review of The Fruit of Her Hands by Michelle Cameron (ARC)
Product Description from Amazon.com
Crafting a richly textured, absorbing novel based on the life of her ancestor, renowned thirteenth-century Jewish scholar Meir ben Baruch of Rothenberg, Michelle Cameron paints a page-turning and deeply personal portrait of Judaism in medieval France and Germany. Imagined through the eyes of Rabbi Meir's wife, Shira, this opulent drama reveals a devout but independent woman who struggles to preserve her religious traditions while remaining true to herself as she and her family witness the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe.
Raised by her widowed rabbi father and a Christian nursemaid in Normandy, Shira is a free-spirited, inquisitive girl whose love of learning shocks the community. But in Meir ben Baruch, a brilliant scholar, she finds her soul mate and a window on the world of Talmudic scholarship that fascinates her.
Married to Meir in Paris, Shira blossoms as a wife and mother, savoring the intellectual and social challenges that come with being the wife of a prominent scholar. After every copy of the Talmud in Paris is confiscated and burned, Shira and her family seek refuge in Germany. Yet even there they experience bloody pogroms and intensifying hatred. As Shira weathers heartbreak and works to find a middle ground between two warring religions, she shows her children and grandchildren how to embrace the joys of life, both secular and religious.
A multigenerational novel that captures a hitherto little-known part of history with deep emotion and riveting authenticity -- and includes an illuminating author's note and a Hebrew glossary -- The Fruit of Her Hands is a powerful novel about the enduring spirit of the Jewish people.
The Fruit of Her Hands is the story of Shira of Askenaz but it s also historical fiction of the times of the author's ancester Meir Ben Barauch a famous Rabbit. Ms. Cameron sucks you in from the first page you are engrossed in this page turning novel.
Shira is a very likeable character, she is a woman ahead her time and she is very intelligent. In the 1200s women were not allowed to learn how to read and write. They were only supposed to run the house and thake care of the children. Shira wanted to learn to study the Torah and the Talmud. Her father , another rabbi had his school, and in this school she met her husband the famous Meir ben Bauch. Another infamous she met at the school is another historical figure Nicholas Donin, who would weave his way throughout her life almost to the very end.
One thing I learned through out this novel was some Jewish Traditions and history. The Jews it seems have been persecuted for years even by own religion of Catholicism has played a role in help and sometimes harming the Jews. I knew nothing about the persecution of the Jews during this time period so this was an eye opener. I also liked that the author included a nice dictionary of terms used in the Jewish Faith.
Overall, I throughly enjoyed this novel and would recommend this to any historical fiction lover or anyone who is interested in learning a little about this time in Jewish History without being bogged down with a lot of facts.
I rate this book a 5/5