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The Seventh Gate

(The Sephardic Cycle #4)

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  655 ratings  ·  82 reviews
Set in 1930s Berlin, during the Nazis' rise to power, 'The Seventh Gate' brings together Sophie Riedesel, an intelligent, artistic, and sexually adventurous 14-year-old with Isaac Zarco and his friends, most of whom are Jews, ex-circus performers and underground activists. ...more
Paperback, 577 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Constable & Robinson (first published 2007)
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  655 ratings  ·  82 reviews

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Oct 09, 2015 rated it liked it
This is my first Richard Zimler novel. I loved the historical fiction part of this. It was set in the time leading up to WWII and told from the POV of one of the 'perfect' people. So I liked that it was different in that respect. It also featured some ex-circus people who were considered freaks of nature. They too added interest. The writing was also quite beautiful. I loved his descriptions. It was eloquent in places and quite lovely.

Now what I didn't like was pretty much only one thing...but
Charles Weinblatt
Aug 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Having reviewed The Warsaw Anagrams for The New York Journal of Books, this reviewer was attracted to another novel by Richard Zimler, who seems to have mastered the art of a "murder mystery wrapped within the timeless anxiety and historical significance of the Holocaust.

The Seventh Gate begins in contemporary America. Our infirmed and elderly protagonist, Sophie, is in a hospital. She appears not far from death. Her devoted nephew visits regularly and takes care of all of her needs. He is deep
Jun 15, 2013 rated it liked it
The book was okay but about halfway through, the relationship between the two main characters took an unexpected and disturbing turn. Tainted the rest of the book for me...
Jill Meyer
Oct 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Richard Zimler's new novel, "The Seventh Gate", is a brilliant story about love and life and survival, with a little Jewish mysticism tossed in. Set mainly in 1930's Berlin, Zimler's story begins with a German Christian family who is torn apart by both death and the creep of Hitler's Third Reich as it settles in on the German people. Good people - or those perceived to be good - are tested and often fail to resist the temptation to prosper as members of the Nazi party. Sophie, the teenage daught ...more
Aug 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
Shelves: fiction, novels, american
People talking of Zimler as "an American Umberto Eco" clearly didn't read Eco (or Zimler).
This book is yet another depiction of life in 1930s Germany, with a tiny bit of Kabbalah tacked on to maintain the "Zimler" brand. The "whodunit" subplot is disjointed, popping up here and there to maintain the reader's attention, but after a while it's clear that the answer really doesn't matter... even to the "detective" in the story.
If you want mysticism, look elsewhere. If you want Weimar stories, loo
Jan 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic read from start to finish. 595 pages I didn't want to end. One of the most moving and human portrayals of people in the midst of WWII. Along with Warsaw Anagrams, this goes on my list of all-time favorites. ...more
Elisa Santos
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I was introduced to this author very recently - this is my 2nd book by him - and i have ebjoyed it immensly.

This is a continuation from the 1st book of the series, which was The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon. This book follows the life and trials mostly of Sofie Riedsel, a german young girl and Isaac Zarco, a descendant of Berekiah Zarco, the protagonist of the previous book, in the Germany of the National Socialism rising. It starts roughly around 1932 and it spans through the years, concentrating o
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Reading the Seventh Gate did not start out easily for me - it is not a romantic or even heroic tale of Germany from the early days of the rise of Hitler through the aftermath of World War II. I found many of the insertions of Jewish (Kabbalist) mythology and philosophy out of sync with the tone and feel of the rest of the book. I was actually pretty sure I didn't like this novel at all but I kept reading, mostly due to a compulsion to finish just about every book I start. Anyway, I am glad I did ...more
Aug 14, 2014 rated it liked it
I have a love/hate relationship with this book. I found the portrayal of 1930s Nazi Berlin chillingly compelling. The insidious ness of a culture that begins to exclude all but the 'perfect' is something with so many parallels in our own time and culture. I think I will remember much if that part. The unlikely (unholy?) relationship of the two main characters was off putting, to say the least. In some respects I would give it 5 stars; in others, maybe 1. ...more
Kat Warren
I read more than half of this book expecting it to get better, to click, to do something. But alas, no. I note many here have loved this book. I'm pretty savvy but I don't find much here. It's tedious, in fact. I'm guessing that if one doesn't know much about the earlier days of Hitler's Germany, this might possibly be a bit more riveting. I gave up. ...more
Dec 02, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read a lot of fiction and nonfiction about WWII and Hitler's rise to power. Each has a different perspective, so it adds to my cumulative knowledge. So it is here, in some respects. It is also in large ways the story of one woman.

Sophie is young in 1932, when the story begins. She lives in Berlin with her father and mother and younger brother Hansi, in an apartment building that also houses Isaac Zarco. Sophie and her family are Christians while Isaac is Jewish. Sophie's father is an outs
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Was this the book, the read I wanted this to be? No. Not at all. Not to begin with. Not even at half way. This quartet about the past 500years of the life of Sephardic Jews funnelled through the policies of Portugal in the form of the Zarco family in its moves through Europe from the refuge haven of polyglot Turkey is in part my own history. I wanted this to be so much more.
I wanted passion. Energy. Right from the start
What I got was a thorough-going, scholarly and intricate depiction of the ris
Mar 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book of the Sephardic cycle of four books by Richard Zimler, of which this is the last. It takes a philosophical look at the treatment of Jews, the mentally and physically disabled and anyone who dared to be different in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945. The forced sterilisation of a woman suffering gigantism is horrifying.

The book also offers a possible answer for why many didn't leave when they saw how things were going - they had commitments and thought normal Germans would ri
Jun 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I felt that the various parts of this book didn't hang together, and it was at least 100 pages too long. There were the very moving stories of what happened to people whom the Nazis perceived to be inferior in any way, and the cruel way they were eliminated even as children (and I have seen the memorial in Brandenburg to the things that happened there). There was the story of Sophie, who is so unhappy with her family that she throws in her lot with those other people and grows to love them - whi ...more
As the scriptures say (although not the Jewish ones): “the best is left for last”. An immensely powerful story that cannot hope but invoke strong thoughts and emotions for a wide range of issues. Extremely thought provoking.
It is a story that continues to develop with the reader continually escorted through a world of Jewish Mysticism, Rebellion, Prejudice and Hatred along with some softer moments of Love and Understanding.
There is a realism here that the reader cannot ever hope to escape.
Jose Alves
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book !!! What happened in pre-WWII Germany with pure racism taken to extremes should be avoided now at all costs, in spite of current trends in countries that should set the example, like the USA, and whose rulers are doing the exact opposite.
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is quite a long book and I felt it almost overstaying its welcome. However, I loved Richard Zimler's writing style. There are some images he created in my mind which may stay with me forever. ...more
Alison Ward
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I met the author on a train and he was so lovely, so I bought his book which recommended to me as it’s set in Berlin where I live. The story is brilliant and I loved it.
It is a very well-constructed novel, under all aspects. It is breathtaking, sad, wild, joyful, at the same time "saucy" and "sweet". ...more
Jan 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
It is a bit of slow-starting book, but because I listened to the audiobook, I thoroughly enjoyed this slow pace. It is apparent throughout the book that the author has done considerable research, because it is very historically accurate, and more importantly, the author has used this historical accuracies to weave in a complicated, multi-threaded story which comes together quite neatly. It should be noted that the text is heavy on Jewish mysticism which only serves to add to the magical feel to ...more
Paula Veiga
Mar 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Interesting from the start to the end. A different view/report on hoe Germans lived the 1930's and endured the rising of the Nazi regime. The characters are excellently depicted and the feelings of them all very strongly described. I enjoy the author's way of geographically showing us where things occur and for those who know the places this is even better! It is strong and violent but also very emotional. One of my fav authors; looking forward to read the next novel by him. Knowing him in the f ...more
Greer Andjanetta
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A dry, slow-starting book that I didn't expect to get very far in before giving up on it but which turned out to be an enjoyable story. Well-written it tells the story of a young German girl growing up in 1930's Berlin, her family life and her odd friends, most of whom are Jewish. The book jacket advertises it as a 'thriller' but the story is more chilling than thrilling. While we are all aware of the Germans' attitudes and actions towards their Jewish citizens, the detailed characters who popul ...more
Dec 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Sophie is a teenager in Germany in 1934. She argues with her parents, has her first boyfriend and enjoys the world around her. The sudden rise of the Nazis, the dangers to her Jewish friends and her fear for her handicapped brother form the center of this book. Her friend and lover Isaac, smuggles people out of Germany, tries to save books before the Nazis can destroy them and protects Sophie from her most dangerous instincts. This is an excellent book written from Sophie's perspective as someon ...more
Jo Murphy
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Moving story of a girl, Sophie, growing up in Berlin in Nazi Germany. For me it is the details that build a picture of a society as it bends under Nazi rule. How it came to be that ordinary Germans went along with this massive crime. Eencapsulated, I think, in the deteriorating relationship with Sophie's father who turns in his Communist card for a Nazi one. I loved the description of their world as the 'Opposite-Compass', in a way to understand how topsy turvey it had all become. A fitting book ...more
It took me almost a month to read this book. I read some pages every day. I don't know if it took so long because I had other things I was doing or if it was hard to get into the book. The book is narrated by Sophie who is in her mid to late eighties and she relives her life from when she was about fourteen in 1930's Berlin. The main narrative takes place during the 1930's. Sophie is Aryan and she has a lot of friends who do not meet what the Nazi's call true bloods. The book does make you think ...more
Mar 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Like many I found the book to be slow in the beginning but soon came to look forward to delving into the life of these colorful characters that filled the pages of this book. There was resilience, hope, faith and love here in the midst of atrocities and evil. I will remember these characters for a long time to come.
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully written historical fiction that covers the years of Hitler rising to power up to the end of World War II and told through the eyes of a coming-of-age girl who falls in love with a much older Jewish man. Both heroic and heartbreaking at times. It does contain a few graphic sexual encounters, but they are done in good taste and are an important part of the story.
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The depiction of Hansi, the different brother, stayed with me for a long time. If some people showed the degree of resistance to the Nazi ideology that the main characters showed, and not the cravenness of Sophie's father, then I feel hope for everyone. A remarkable book... ...more
Aug 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
What can I say. This book is fantastic. Definitely in the top five I have ever read. Set against the background of the beginnings of World War 2 and moving on to the Holocaust and told from a young German girl's point of view. Love, love, loved it. ...more
Katie Grainger
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was the best book that I read in 2006, I literally could not wait to get on the bus to work so that I could read it. Sad...hopeful and generally wonderfully written it was a book that I will always keep on my bookshelf.
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Richard Zimler was born in Roslyn Heights, a suburb of New York, in 1956. After earning a bachelor's degree in comparative religion from Duke University (1977) and a master's degree in journalism from Stanford University (1982), he worked for eight years as a journalist, mainly in the San Francisco Bay area. In 1990, he moved to Porto, Portugal, where he taught journalism for sixteen years, first ...more

Other books in the series

The Sephardic Cycle (4 books)
  • The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon (The Sephardic Cycle, #1)
  • Hunting Midnight (The Sephardic Cycle, #2)
  • Guardian of the Dawn (The Sephardic Cycle, #3)

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Why not focus on some serious family drama? Not yours, of course, but a fictional family whose story you can follow through the generations of...
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