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The Ghost of Hannah Mendes

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  1,545 Ratings  ·  140 Reviews
When Catherine da Costa, a wealthy Manhattan matron, learns she has only a short time to live, she realizes that her family tree will die unless she passes on its legacy and traditions to her granddaughters. But Suzanne and Francesca, beautiful young women caught up in trendy causes and ambitious careers, have no interest in the past. Catherine almost despairs until one ni ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published November 16th 2001 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published September 22nd 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,761)
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Apr 09, 2011 Rachayl rated it liked it
I want to say something nice first. I know people- okay one person- who have been really inspired by this book. And I felt a few warm spots in my heart at various points. And Ragen had a few thoughtful insights about the value of family tradition. So that's why three stars, although I will now be snarky.
While reading Naomi Ragen's novels, I do always care about the story and characters. But mainly, I find myself analyzing the author. And wanting to write about all her books at once. At some poin
 Linda (Miss Greedybooks)
A wealthy New York woman, Catherine da Costa, with a short time to live, she realizes that her family tree will die unless she passes on its traditions to her granddaughters, Suzanne and Francesca, they have no interest in the past.

Catherine is visited by the ghost of her family's anscestor, Hannah Mandes who encourages Catherine to get her granddaughters to journey across Europe. The sisters honor their grandmother's request out of loyalty and start to uncover ancient pages from Hannah Mendes'
Mar 13, 2016 Laurie rated it liked it
I admit I picked this book off the shelf because of the beautiful cover. Also, it had a ghost. And memoir 500 years old, that there is a search for. What’s not to love?

Catherine has been told she only has a short time to live. She is sad that her two granddaughters don’t follow the families Sephardic tradition, and, worse, are still single and childless. The ghost of Hannah Mendes visits her, encouraging Catherine to have her granddaughters visit Europe and find her long lost memoir. Suzanne an
May 26, 2015 Kirsten rated it liked it
This book started off brilliantly, and then dwindled and sputtered. I finished it because I wanted to know what was going to happen, but it was pretty disappointing. It's about a rich Jewish elderly woman who has just been told she's dying, which puts her *whole life* into a new perspective. She digs out an old family manuscript, and is then visited by the ghost of her ancestress Hannah Mendes, who tells her to send her granddaughters to Europe on a quest. The book is made up of sections of the ...more
Jun 02, 2014 Carissa rated it it was amazing
This book is so good. Hard to put down. Historical fiction wrapped up in a love story and Jewish identity. What could be better!? I love the author.
Learned so much history while reading this book. I have a new appreciation for Pepper! That's right pepper. Read the book and discover pepper for yourself. Absolutely loved this book.
Janet Lavine
Jun 13, 2016 Janet Lavine rated it it was ok
I like historical fiction when it keeps faith to the non-fiction elements at its core. And in The Ghost of Hannah Mendes, I believe the author achieved this goal in the chapters dealing with the true story of Hannah Mendes, a fabulously wealthy converso who moved through Europe in the 1500's staying one step ahead of the Inquisition until she was finally able to reclaim her Jewish identity in Turkey. But the fiction narrative quickly dissolved into a stereotypical family soap opera -- two sister ...more
Dec 29, 2015 Theresa rated it really liked it
Catherine da Costa is a dying woman whose final wish is to see her two granddaughters find their family roots and marry nice Sephardic Jewish boys. When a vision from her family's past visits her one night, Catherine has found her ruse -- a rare book hunt across Europe. This novel intersperses the modern story with pages of an ancient manuscript found during the treasure hunt. The reader also learns about the history of Sephardic Jews and the resilience of a culture during persecution. The only ...more
Reina Smoley-balog
Jan 27, 2015 Reina Smoley-balog rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 11, 2016 Laurel rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this part historical novel, part contemporary love story. The historical part was fascinating, about the 1492 Expulsion of the Jews from Spain, under the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella. I knew little of this part of history and the author goes into great detail about the horrors suffered by the Jews, who were forced to convert to Catholicism or be executed. Families denounced one another, tearing families apart, forcing them to flee Spain, leaving all their earthly posse ...more
Suanne Laqueur
Apr 18, 2016 Suanne Laqueur rated it liked it
I love historical fiction, but sometimes I have difficulty (translated, I'm picky) with the ones that go from characters in the past to characters in the present. I find either the contemporary sections are wondeful but the author’s voice just doesn’t translate to an older, fifteenth-century style and it ends up sounding ridiculous (ie, Serensissima by Erica Jong). Or vice-versa: the parts taking place in the past are wonderful, but the contemporary characters sound ridiculous (ie The Awakening, ...more
Mar 29, 2009 Kari rated it really liked it
The historical parts of this book were what first grabbed my interest. I really enjoyed reading from Hannah Mendes' perspective. That said, I also found that with so many intervening stories, I had a hard time remembering what was happening with Hannah from time to time.

As far as the modern-day characters go, I didn't expect to like Francesca as much as I did. At first glance she seemed so different from me. She was a career business woman who was prudent with her money, but liked having it arou
Jan 22, 2012 Nancy rated it liked it
I loved the first 2/3 of this book, but then....the ghost scenes were a bit much for me. I felt like they were not necessary at all, and that the same information could have been passed along in the document. I guess the ghost was supposed to be the only explanation of why the granddaughters would continue the quest, and end up in Venice, when they didn't plan any of it, but still....
The author could have handled their motivation as just being to please their grandmother.

A rich, non-religious Je
Tiffany Wacaser
Jan 01, 2016 Tiffany Wacaser rated it really liked it
Note: there are some spoilers in this review.

I picked this book up at random at the library, not really expecting much more than a quick read for entertainment. Well, I got much more than I bargained for.

The story weaves the lives of 4 women together: Hannah Mendes, a Jewish woman in the 1500's, Caroline, a New York Jewish matriach dying of cancer, and Suzanne and Francesca, Caroline's granddaughters. Caroline, Suzanne and Francesca are descendents of Hannah Mendes. Caroline realizes that she h
Gina Brickman
Feb 04, 2011 Gina Brickman rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book which is the story of a family trying to learn more about their heroic anscestor (Gracia Mendes, a real historical person) at the time of the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions. Gracia Mendes was a very interesting person and I wanted to know more about her and her life. This period in history was a terrfying time to be Jewish and it should make for a great book. Despite this, I was disappointed in the modern day characters (two grandaughters and a grandmother) ...more
Mar 02, 2008 Rita rated it it was amazing
Book Description
When Catherine da Costa, a wealthy Manhattan matron, learns she has only a short time to live, she realizes that her family tree will die unless she passes on its legacy and traditions to her granddaughters.But Suzanne and Francesca, beautiful young women caught up in trendy causes and ambitious careers, have no interest in the past.Catherine almost despairs until one night she is visited by the ghost of her family's anscestor, an indomitable Renaissance businesswoman named Hanna
Jun 09, 2008 Lauren rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. This book had a lot of potential - it was about a family trying to understand the actions of a heroic anscestor (Gracia Mendes) at the time of the Spanish and Portuguese inquisitions. Naomi Ragen could hardly have found a better backdrop for this novel. Gracia Mendes was a fascinating person and the sixteenth century was a terrfying time to be Jewish. However, the author bungled what could have been an interesting novel.

Problem #1: The characters were flat, tr
Apr 22, 2010 Sue marked it as decided-not-to-read
Shelves: jewish-themes
Among a certain cohort of Jewish women (including myself), everyone has read Naomi Ragen's early potboiler novels: Jephthe's Daughter, The Rape of Tamar, Sotah. Each one tells a modern story that echoes themes from one of the more sensationalist Bible stories. These books are not outstandingly well-written, nor are the characters outstandingly well fleshed out. But they're not bad, & they're almost impossible to put down once started. Rather different was The Covenant, an angry story dealing ...more
Laura Schmidt
Apr 20, 2008 Laura Schmidt rated it it was amazing
Historical novels are my favorite genre of book, and this is by far my FAVORITE book. I love how it deals with the family's past and the present at the same time, and how it all relates. One's ancestry isn't just pictures of people, it's decades and centuries of people's lives- their heartaches, their struggles, their loves, and their sacrifices for future generations. This book particularly because of it's dealings with the Inquisition, which is just heartbreaking.

The author yearns for readers
This book is about appreciating your family history. It is based on a Jewish family and their struggles, but you do not have to be Jewish to love this book. I am a "sucker" for books with love of family and faith--- and adding a little romance never hurt anything!
Few authors can capture history, human emotion and romance as well as international bestselling author Naomi Ragen. In "The Ghost of Hannah Mendes: A Novel", she expertly interweaves the tragic chronicle of the Spanish and Portuguese J
Nancy Frishberg
Jan 06, 2010 Nancy Frishberg rated it liked it
Recommended to Nancy by: R. Cole Smith
The story crosses historical fiction with a romance novel.

The positives: I've found myself recalling images and incidents from the book, about the Inquisition, Spain and Venice. Makes me want to read more about Sephardic Jews, the source material Ragen used about the historical characters.

The negatives: I was dissatisfied with the portrayal of the contemporary women, the granddaughters whose lives were changed by the journey undertaken on behalf of their dying grandmother. It's fiction, so the
Nov 14, 2011 Beverly rated it liked it
Catherine Da Costa has just found out she does not have long to live. She regrets not having instilled in her granddaughters a sense of their heritage. This is where it goes out on a limb. She is visited by the ghost of her ancestor Gracia Hannah Mendes, a wealthy woman who lived through the Inquisition (a real person). Gracia tells Catherine to find the rest of her journal. Catherine sends her granddaughters Francesca and Suzanne on this quest. They are opposites -- Francesca is responsible and ...more
Jul 23, 2011 Michelle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: magical-realism
Catherine finds out that she is dying. She is visited by a ghost of one of her ancestors who asks her to find the missing pages from her story as a Jew at the time of the Inquisition. In a plan to bring her two very different granddaughters together, she asks them to find the manuscript. Hannah's story is interspersed with the two women as they travel across Europe in their search. In their travels, the two meet men who help them not only with the hunt for the manuscript, but bring the promise o ...more
May 04, 2008 puddlescript rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2008
I finished this a few days ago and was extremely disappointed in it. It sounded like it had such good potential and the idea could have possibly made an excellent book. didn't. The historical aspects were entertaining and well written and I really enjoyed them but when the author entered current day it kind of fell apart. There were too many romantic novel cliches, the characters were too stereotypical and there were too many coincidences that were attempted to be explained by the elusi ...more
Ladyinthe White Hat
Jul 07, 2014 Ladyinthe White Hat rated it it was amazing
This is my go-to book for a Bat-Mitzvah present. The story is compelling, the history comes alive, and any young girl who is into historical fiction or fantasy will find that the Jewish ideas go down easily with a spoonful of sugar. It's one of my personal favorites - and I mostly read nineteenth century classics (Jane Austen, George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, etc).
Jun 29, 2010 emily rated it really liked it
My friend recommended this book--and even lent it to me to bring back East!--and I am SO glad she did! I loved it. It's a heartfelt story about family and accepting the role the past plays in your future.

This was a great summer read: engaging plot line, interesting format, lots of heart. The characters fell into typical stereotypes and there were places where it felt a little choppy or I wished the author would've taken a slightly different perspective, but I loved the underlying message. It al
Jan 31, 2008 Rachel rated it liked it
In general, though I'm not Jewish (it was rec'd by a Jewish friend), I liked the book...the fact that the Nasi-Mendes family is real adds depth to the fiction and learning about the Inquisition in more detail was worth the read. I criticize the book on three levels...1) the supernatural realm of ghosts got a bit much and I think detracted from the story, 2) the granddaughter characters were fairly pathetic and it was really hard to like them or sympathize with them making it a little difficult t ...more
Melissa Winterman
Jul 17, 2014 Melissa Winterman rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The Ghost of Hannah Mendes is Naomi Ragen at her best. When the Matriarch of a Jewish, NYC family realizes how disconnected her family is from one another, she decides to take action. She sends them on a trip through Europe to discover their roots. I simply love the characters---a must read!
Apr 29, 2016 Gerry rated it liked it
Interesting background on the Spanish Inquisition and Sephardic Jews, but somehow the present-day portion of the story was not fleshed out realistically enough. I’d have preferred more of the history and less of the romance.
Kristine Goldberg
Nov 02, 2010 Kristine Goldberg rated it really liked it
This book was such a pleasure for me to read. I loved the author's choice of words. I thought her writing was descriptive and beautiful. I've always loved stories about Jewish people struggling to keep their religion and culture and to pass it down to future generations. The Spanish Inquisition was a terrifying time and I think this story covered it well. I loved learning about Hannah Mendes and the House of Mendes.

My only criticism of this book is that some of the conversations of the modern ch
Apr 11, 2015 Cathy rated it it was ok
Not a fav. A little too "romance" genre for me. The Historical background was interesting, but really, everyone is wealthy & good looking & everything just magically (literally) works out for them.
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Naomi Ragen is an American-born novelist and playwright who has lived in Jerusalem since 1971. She has published seven internationally best-selling novels, and is the author of a hit play. Naomi also publishes a regular column that deals with Jewish subjects, especially Israel.
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