Lydia Presley's Reviews > The Fifth Servant

The Fifth Servant by Kenneth Wishnia
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Feb 22, 2011

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bookshelves: 2011, historic-fiction, mystery, fiction
Read from February 21 to 22, 2011

I'm really torn on how to review this book. Because on one hand, I think it was absolutely brilliant although at times I felt as if the author was writing for a specific audience and, while I'm on the fringed edge of that audience, there were parts I just couldn't grasp, and on the other hand I found that the mystery was more of a distraction then anything else.

I think the best way to review The Fifth Servant is to look at it two ways; first, as a murder mystery and second, as a historical novel dealing with the friction in 16th century Prague between the Christians and the Jews.

As a murder mystery, I found The Fifth Servant to be lacking. The details of the murder were so lost in all of the politics between religions, the rich descriptions of Prague, the smattering of strange words (although a helpful translation guide is located at the end of the book - something I figured out about 3/4ths of the way through), and the endless debating that the Jews are portrayed to do. While the murder was, initially, a fantastic hook into the story, it just seemed to slowly grow less and less the main focus of the book, although the characters actions tried to keep it a focus. There was simply too much going on.

Which leads me to the second thing this book is, a historical novel. As this, I found the book to be incredible. I knew so little about this time period and place that I found everything to be fascinating. I had no idea that the Jews had their special place (and relative protection) and for the reasons stated in this book. I found the descriptions and language to be completely immersive and, understandably, I felt lost at times because I was not familiar with street names and the Hebrew and Czech languages.

I think for a history buff, and someone interested in the religious and political aspects of this novel, that there are few out there that can compare. It's obvious that Kenneth Wishnia has done his research and spent much time and effort in creating a book that would, as accurately as possible, capture 16th century Prague.
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08/27/2016 marked as: read

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