Fantastic tales of demons and the Evil Eye, magical incantations, and powerful attractions abound in Enchantress, a novel that weaves together Talmudic lore, ancient Jewish magic, and a timeless love story set in fourth-century Babylonia.
One of the most powerful practitioners of these mysterious arts is Rav Hisda’s daughter, whose innate awareness allows her to possess the skills men lack. With her husband, Rava--whose arcane knowledge of the secret Torah enables him to create a "man” out of earth and to resurrect another rabbi from death--the two brave an evil sorceress, Ashmedai the Demon King, and even the Angel of Death in their quest to safeguard their people, even while putting their romance at risk.
The author of the acclaimed Rashi’s Daughters series and the award-winning Rav Hisda’s Daughter: Apprentice has conjured literary magic in the land where "abracadabra” originated. Based on five years of research and populated with characters from the Talmud, Enchantress brings a pivotal era of Jewish and Christian history to life from the perspective of a courageous and passionate woman.
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. 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 trilogy of historical novels about them was born.
After the success of "Rashi's Daughters" Anton started researching the lives of women in 4th-century Babylonia, where the Talmud was being created. Surprised by the prevalence of sorcery among rabbinic families, she wrote "Rav Hisda's Daughter: Bk 1 - Apprentice," which was a 2012 National Jewish Book Award Fiction finalist and a Library Journal pick for Best Historical Fiction. This was followed by its sequel, "Enchantress: A Novel of Rav Hisda's Daughter."
Anton's then turned her attention to nonfiction, with the publication of "Fifty Shades of Talmud: What the First Rabbis Had to Say about You-Know-What," a light-hearted look at sexuality in the Talmud.
Her latest work is The Choice: A Novel of Love, Faith and the Talmud, a wholly transformative novel that takes characters inspired by Chaim Potok and ages them into young adults in 1950s Brooklyn. Since 2005, Anton has lectured about the research behind her books at hundreds of venues throughout North America, Europe and Israel. She still studies women and Talmud, albeit mostly online. Her favorite Talmud learning sites are Daf Shevui and Mishna Yomit, provided daily via email by the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem at https://www.conservativeyeshiva.org/l....
Personally, I think this is the best novel I've written. My editor at Penguin did a fantastic job of tightening the story, removing unnecessary exposition, and distributing the backstory from Apprentice: A Novel of Love, the Talmud, and Sorcery into many scenes instead of a few big information dumps.
Imagine fourth-century Babylonia – land of jinni and flying carpets, where the very word “magic” originated. But this is also where the Talmud was created, and indeed, slipped in among its countless legal arguments are fantastic tales of demons and the Evil Eye, and of enchantresses and rabbis whose spells protected people from them.
There are fewer stories of learned women, not surprising in a text that names more demons than women. One curious piece of Gemara has Rav Hisda’s daughter sitting in her father’s classroom when he suddenly calls up his two best students and asks her, “Who do you want to marry?” Astonishingly, she replies, “Both of them,” and more astonishingly, she is considered a prophet because that is what ultimately happens. She does marry both of them … sequentially.
This is one of many rabbinic texts I wove into Enchantress, my novel about this audacious girl who yearns to become a sorceress, an esteemed profession for women in her community. But she is caught between memories of her first husband Rami and her increasing passion for Rava, the man she once blamed for Rami’s untimely death. Eventually though, our heroine finds her place among the most powerful magic practitioners, along with Rava, her second husband.
Completely captivated by the story I did find the numerous Jewish references a challenge. Continually consulting the glossaries and notes a must in order to comprehend the meanings was at best a distraction. My extensive lack of knowledge was my failing, the narrative was enjoyed along with eloquent prose. The heavy laden eye for detail was cumbersome at times, nonetheless appreciated.
I commend Anton on her painstaking research, a fascinating subject matter creating great interest. With the extensive Jewish references I did find my focus challenged more than I would have liked, diminishing my thorough pleasure of narrative. A marvelous read with its set of challenges, highly recommend, patience required.
While not a fan initially, this book grew on me. I thought that the subject matter was fascinating albeit hard to believe it was based on real life. The author has obviously researched the Jewish faith extensively.
I enjoyed the main character although found her strict way of life hard to relate to, but still I could appreciate it. I did have a little trouble with all of the Jewish terms, with which I was not familiar with but the glossary at the end of the novel helps with this.
Overall I would recommend this book , although I would caution that unless you have an interest in ancient Judaism you may find this novel a little dry, however the mystical properties of this story may make up for it. 3.5/5
Note: I received this novel for free in exchange for an honest review.
The amount of Talmudic lore Anton squeezes in between pages is impressive. After a story like this, the persons on the pages of Talmud come to life. It’s fantastic.
One annoying thing is that Anton projects her modern notions of romance on her ancient characters. Feels so jarring. On the other hand, it’s fascinating to watch her tell about magic spells and incantations with the straightest poker face like she lived in some video game.
Another thing, all persons and events live in perfect harmony. There is little discord, no suspense, and no juicy gossip. I mean come on, we want the salacious stuff. She should make something up.
This was a difficult novel for me to finish. It shouldn't take me over 2 weeks to finish a novel. I received an ARC through First to Read from Penguin group.
I will start on a positive note and say it was interesting to learn about Talmudic lore and the history of Babylonia. The story is incredibly well researched.
However, I found at times the story would get weighted down with too many discussions or debats on Jeweish laws and customs, especially when the topic was not relevant to the central story. After a while I began to skim those parts.
There was much potential but I felt the focus of the story was slow and often had no direction. Also I feel the pacing can be summed up well through this quote from page 362: "That year in Pumbedita before Rava and I became betrothed had felt interminable, yet now it seemed that no sooner did we dismantle one year's sukkah than it was time to build another."
Slow beginning with the end often being described in a summary year to year.
There was so much time spent on Hisdadukh and Rava's courtship and not enough on her sorcery. Training with her mother would have been cool to see. I mean the title is Enchantress after all.
The end battle was anti-climatic because the rivalry with Zafnat was incredibly underdeveloped. Her presence in the story happens less than a handful of times.
The family dynamics were well developed. There were some humorous parts as well.
I did like Hisdadukh very much. She was strong, intelligent, could hold her own in difficult situations and was independently wealthy from her husband. I also liked that Rava was a supportive husband. They were two people I would root for.
Ultimately, it was too slow to develop and I often felt uninspired to continue. I kept waiting for Zafnat to evoke the Evil Eye and create many conflicts directly toward Hisdadukh. Instead it felt very much like reading a day by day, or a year by year diary.
Initially I was afraid that taking this book under my review wing would be a little scary. The amount of knowledge I had prior to reading this novel when it came to Jewish history could have been held in a shot glass. Even so, through Maggie Anton's magical abilities as a storyteller, I found myself immediately immersed in a world of long ago with characters so rich and vibrant that they dance off the pages.
The way this author interweaves her story with historical threads and uses such beautiful imagery and wonderful word choices kept me up late at night turning pages. She not only has a gift for making you see the world of her characters through words, but also has a real talent for making her characters vulnerable and human at the core level. Reading her writing is a journey, and one that you will want to repeat again.
I loved that the story took unexpected turns and that there was no way to know what was coming next. What I thought at first, would be a rather difficult book to read, instead turned out to be exciting, compelling and a fine example of literary genius.
My only stumbling block along the way was the difficulty of keeping certain characters straight. There is a guide in the beginning to help with that, so the troubles were really more my fault than that of the author (difficult to keep checking back on a Kindle ereader.)
Overall this is a beautifully crafted novel with plenty of reasons to make me recommend it. A great book from a very talented author.
This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and distributed through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
It's too easy to say that Enchantress casts its own spell, but such a comparison is impossible to resist. Hisdadukh, Anton's main character, may live in the early 4th century, but once you are immersed in Enchantress, she becomes as familiar as a dear friend and as fascinating as any of the great heroines of biblical history whose names are more familiar. An absolutely rewarding read!
(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Goodreads' First Reads program.)
I found this book to be a bit difficult to read. All in all, I enjoyed reading about parts of jewish culture that I didn't know before, however I found myself struggling to understand it all. The character development was stellar, and the story telling entertaining. Would I read this again? Probably not. Not due to any fault of the novel, it just isn't my typical read.
It was really interesting to read about ancient Hebrew and Babylonian sorcery, especially with how superstitious they were and to learn about the demon world. I will say, the sex scenes are really annoying and completely unnecessary. If you can ignore the overdone romance, the knowledge in here is worth it.
Enchantress was a well researched novel with a message on the role of men and women in the Jewish community in ancient Babylon (Babylon in the centuries after Christ). The divisions between the Rabbis and those who follow the Rabbis' laws and those who want to follow the Torah only are touched on. The central story is of Hisdadukh a healer who becomes chief soceress and her husband Rava who is powerful in priestly magic is filled with expositions of Jewish law and courts and interpretations of the Torah and the Rabbis' teachings. I learned a lot (and have forgotten a lot as it was chock full of information) about the Jewish community in those times. BUT...the story arc and character development left me wanting more. Good, I guess, but I am not interested in reading any more about Rav Hisda's daughters or Rashi's daughters right now - think I need some time to pass before I delve in this trove of information which as fiction falls flat in places.
I received this book from Net Galley and participated in a blog tour to promote this book. This is the briefer Goodreads version of my review.
Maggie Anton's second book about the Jewish scholar and magical practitioner who she calls Hisdadukh, is far more fantasy oriented than the first volume. Demons appear and a mysterious magical artifact surfaces as Hisdadukh ascends through the hierarchy of sorceresses in the Jewish communities of ancient Persia. We learn that a number of eminent women were sorceresses and that they were as integral to the Judaism of the time as the Rabbis who also had a secret tradition of magical practices.
Anton's protagonists, Hisdadukh and Rava, are portrayed as human beings who grow and change during their lifetimes.
As I was reading the book, I questioned the development of Hisdadukh into a woman who prioritized status and power. Yet she still maintained the pursuit of knowledge as a main goal as well as the strength of her family and community. Status and power were intended to serve those goals. She didn't become distracted or corrupted by her increased status and power as some other characters did. I found that very admirable.
Rava had a dark side to his character. His enduring failings were arrogance and rage in response to any challenge. Since I have little tolerance for people who refuse to admit that they can make mistakes, I originally thought that he couldn't have any successful relationships. On the other hand, I admit that he did have some commendable traits. His brilliant mind, heroism and loyalty do go a long way to compensate for a rampant ego. He also eventually showed some regret over the results of his own bad behavior which demonstrates growth. The revelations about the difficult past that formed his character also made him more sympathetic.
I recommend this book to readers who want to see a fully realized Jewish society where building the Talmud and practicing magic were both considered Jewish activities.
I heard about this book when I was a Jewish Studies major in university, when my professor said it helped renew interest in this era of Jewish history and sorcery. I was prepared for the change in genre since the first novel in the series was historical fiction while Enchantress is a romantic fantasy. Unfortunately, I still found the book very difficult to enjoy.
Since the novel takes place in Ancient Persia, there's a lot of "deliberate outdated values," like Jewish characters being fine with slavery. This was not as much of a glaring issue in the first book since we weren't meant to be TOO invested. As a work of historical fiction, it's as much a window into the past as an entertaining story. There's a built-in distance between reader and POV character.
However, since Enchantress is a romantic fantasy, we're meant to be emotionally invested in the characters' values, goals, and struggles. The story's two main draws are supposed to be the steamy romance between the two leads, and the ancient rabbinical sorcery they practice.
So with that said, I could only get halfway through the novel. I found the leads too unlikable to feel invested in their romance, and by the time the story finally got around to detailing ancient Jewish sorcery, I longed for the wikipedia page.
As others have said, I found Rava/Abba too much of an arrogant, belligerent, narcissistic misogynist. I kept wondering, "What the hell does Hisdaduhk see in him?" And she doesn't seem to know either, since the only reasons she gives are a) He fought the Angel of Death for her, b) They're Destined to be together, because Fate says so. Never mind that they can never go a full conversation without arguing, and even during their engagement and wedding night Hisdaduhk often walks on eggshells to avoid making him mad. His explosive (and at times unpredictable) temper doesn't endear me to him.
Hisdaduhk isn't much better for me. Most readers praise her as a "strong" and intelligent woman, and she is... but she really strikes me as the kind of conservative rich woman who cares more about using sorcery to fix the weather for her precious holiday party than saving a child's life, and supports systemic oppression (both slavery and women being unable to file for divorce under rabbinical law) because SHE benefits from it.
In the first book she underwent some legitimate hardships so I could sympathize, but this book when she's not pining after Rava (more on that later) she CONSTANTLY mentally brags to the reader how disgustingly rich, privileged, and happy she is. She constantly mentally gushes about how she has more independent wealth, land, silks, and jewels than she knows what to do with, that she doesn't even have to bother with since her brothers, sisters-in-law, and slaves handle it all for her. Once she and Rava finally get together (more on that later) she constantly mentally brags about how insanely happy she is in her marriage and how well her pregnancies go.
Meanwhile, she's surrounded by people dealing with unimaginable tragedies: poverty, widowhood, disappeared husbands, abusive spouses, tons of miscarriages and/or stillbirths, children who died young, women dying in childbirth, lost their families in a war or famine, being literally enslaved, etc.
And Hisdadukh's disinterest in healing magic is SUPPOSED to show how she's too intellectually curious to be satisfied performing mundane healing spells, but to me it comes across more like, "Ew! I don't want these dirty poors touching my silk dress! I can't stand this infernal wailing!"
I almost threw the book down when she mentally complained about how bored she was saving a child's life since the magic was too mundane, but immediately felt intrigued using magic to end a sandstorm so her family's Passover party would be more pleasant.
Or the time when Zeira the ugly, charred-skinned, hunchbacked former rabbinical student dared to--ugh!--HIT ON Hisdadukh at a gathering! His ugliness and deformity are treated as reflections of his moral character, with some real ableism and classism thrown in for good measure. (Because of course he's poor.) I guess we're supposed to think he's too cloying and smarmy for Hisdadukh, but her attitude toward him feels a little too, "EW! How dare this uggo talk to me! Doesn't he know I'm too rich and beautiful for him??"
Then of course the tall, manly, forceful Rava comes to the "rescue," and it's treated like he's valiantly defending her honor. When Zeira starts heckling Rava, it's treated like Rava and Hisdadukh are showing a united front against a persecuting bully, but since the 'bully' is homely and impoverished, he poses no threat. Since they're beautiful, privileged, and respected members of the community, it comes across like a privileged couple disdaining a poor homely guy for daring to talk to them.
I also just found Hisdadukh's romance with Rava not very compelling.
For the first 1/4 of the book she constantly pines over Rava and frets, "Does he love me? Does he not? He treated me so coldly when we met last. After all our history together, I thought I meant more to him than this?" Blah blah blah. But Having read the first book, I know their long convoluted backstory, and she omits a lot of details.
Apart from what she tells her friend at the start to catch up those who didn't read the first book, Hisdadukh being so hurt that Rava greets her coldly at the start of the book loses a lot of sympathy when you learn that she spent most of the last book hating him, instantly changed her mind when he "fought the Angel of Death for me," and spent the next several weeks leading him on making bedroom eyes with him, ONLY to suddenly throw his poverty and inability to divorce his first wife back in his face.
At the end of the first book, when he told her honestly a second time that he'd need to marry Hisdadukh first to use her dowry to divorce his first wife (since Choran demanded a huge ketuba/prenup), after weeks of making bedroom eyes at him Hisdadukh suddenly said coldly, "You have to divorce Choran first, for I will be second wife to no one." She even mentally decided this was the correct course of action to end up marrying him as fate decided... Yet she seems to have forgotten it by this book, and spends the first like 1/4 constantly whining and fretting about wondering why he doesn't seem to want to marry her anymore, why he treats her coldly, etc.
She also plays a lot of games trying to get his attention; tries to read his mind, expects him to read her mind, follows one female relative's advice that she should give him the silent treatment to increase his desire for her, wears whore perfume to make him attracted to her, etc. It isn't till nearly 1/2 through the book that she finally decides to follow her mom's advice that she "be direct with him," and... what do you know! It works! The man who's openly wanted to marry you since you were kids and was put off by you constantly playing games and running hot and cold with him, turns out to still want to marry you once you cleared the air and talked to him like an adult!
She also plays games in other ways. Again, Rava can't afford to divorce his first wife (who's of course a spiteful bitch, so his neglect and discard of her is justified), isn't good with business, has bad crops and has to mortgage his lands. For some reason, Hisdadukh has her brothers arrange to have her be the secret loaner mortgaging Rava's lands so the money stays with his future wife, and so he can slowly make enough money to divorce Choran.
But apparently that's not fast enough for Hisdadukh, so around halfway through the book...
SPOILER: She proposes to Rava by giving him the pearl her father gave her as a gift on her first wedding night and happily declares that this will be his means to divorce Choran. Rava is pleased, but I'm sitting here frowning, "You had the means to help him divorce his first wife without marrying you first all along and didn't do so till now?" Nearly 1/2 of the book devoted to pointless high school "how does he really feel about me? does he still want to marry me?" drama that could have been avoided since the ending of the first book!
But the final straw for me was about halfway through the book. Visiting Eretz Israel, Rava tutors an impoverished, emaciated teen who lost his whole family in a recent famine. When they need to return home, the youth begs Rava to take him with. To my surprise, Rava brusquely rejects him and claims he'd be too much of an expensive burden. For SOME fucking reason, the youth still adores Rava, and eventually offers to sell himself into slavery to Rava. To my surprise, Rava STILL treats the youth with cold disdain and grills him about how he has to "work hard" and "earn his keep."
And I just thought, "ALL OF YOU PEOPLE ARE LOATHSOME!"
Because here's the thing: Rava was poor and from a humble family. He became a respected rabbi after being a student of Rav Hisda, and managed to become rich mostly by marrying Rav Hisda's daughter. (Also inheriting a small fortune from some rabbi he never heard of because said rabbi wanted to spite Choran's family, but that's a whole other issue.)
So like any rich asshole who climbed his way to wealth and prestige, Rava shows ZERO FUCKING INTEREST in paying that kindness forward and giving another poor youth the same opportunities he got when he was younger. Instead, he sneers that the youth is a BURDEN and makes the boy agree to either stay in aject poverty or sell his future as Rava's literal property.
And then Hisdadukh has the GALL to utter this absolute HORSESHIT: "Like me, he was bound to Rava for life, or until Rava no longer wanted him." Except Hisdadukh spent the first 1/2 of the novel constantly reminding the reader of how independently wealthy and privileged she was compared to Rava, and what a robust support network she has. (Large wealthy extended family, lots of friends she can stay with in Eretz Israel, etc.) And how her wedding with Rava was symbolically as equals.
And now, like any rich conservative woman whose life is all hunky-dory, Hisdadukh has the gall to pretend like this literal impoverished orphan who must sell himself as literal property not to be abandoned by his favorite mentor's life is in ANY WAY comparable to hers.
She was about to return home to attend to her sick mother and learn more advanced sorcery from her, but you know what? By that point, I couldn't read another page.
All of this is ultimately why I cannot finish this book: It's a romantic fantasy that is very emotion-driven and character-driven. It's less research-heavy than the first, and the story is more about internal relationships than external circumstances. In the first novel, the story was largely a vehicle to show off the research of the time period. So when characters displayed outdated values (like slavery and systemic misogyny), I could give it a pass.
For this book, we are supposed to be invested in these characters and their romance with each other, but I just find them such utterly loathsome people. Rava is still an arrogant misogynist, Hisdadukh is a rich conservative woman with the emotional maturity of a high school gossip girl who cares more about using sorcery to change the weather so her precious holiday party won't be ruined over saving a little girl's life, and both of them are loathsome. They deserve each other.
Maggie Anton has done it again. She's written a book that is engaging, both from an intellectual and emotional point of view. I've read most of the books she has written and the reviews are on my Goodreads page. Anton has woven a rich world, once again during a time period I don't have a lot of familiarity with. She also struck a great balance of magic and life. Granted, reading a novel like "Enchantress" you expect magic but it was never so crazy that it broke my suspension of disbelief.
I love the way Anton writes relationships, particularly when they are ones that are building. She has a great sense of timing, not drawing out a "will they or won't they" too long, but just enough that it doesn't seem like a foregone conclusion and she's going through the motions. As usual, she also paints a portrait of the complexities of marriage. Something I really came to appreciate about Anton in this work was that she isn't afraid to have characters being sexual throughout the course of their life and show how that changes. We've seen Hisdukah go from innocently washing Rami's feet in book one to trading sexy banter well into her 60s (or older!).
Something that I've often mentioned with Anton's work is the Talmud and Torah discussions within the books. In other works it felt long and took me out of the story sometimes. However, in Enchantress she struck a perfect balance. There was enough material that I learned a lot but not so much I disengaged. This work deserves all 5 of it's stars.
My first real exposure to Jews and ancient magic was in Maggie Anton's first book in the "Rashi's Daughters" trilogy. After reading it I discussed the topic with my rabbi who said superstitions were a big part of the Jews at one time. Then on one of my trips to Israel I saw that the Biblelands Museum was having an exhibit on Angels & Demons. Much of what I saw there had been mentioned in "Rashi's Daughters".
I enjoyed the book tremendously but am a bit torn. It seemed that the second book of "Rav Hisda's Daughter" series has sorcery all through it. I preferred the scattering of it as in the "Rashi's Daughters" books. This book was more like a pure fantasy book. I feel like the historical aspects were forgotten. So if I consider the book as fantasy (with romance mixed in) I would give it five stars, but as historical fiction it is four stars. Either way, it is an interesting read. I prefer the philosophical debate portion of the story. This is such a huge part of Judaism even today. I feel like this book could have been two books by slowing it down. Sometimes an entire decade has passed from one chapter to the next. I did care about all the characters (and there's quite a few of them). There are some very strong personalities in the mix.
It is obvious that the author put a LOT of research into this book. Well done!
The story of a Jewish lady during the days of the Roman Empire. She is widowed at the start of the novel and the book is epic in scope following her through marriage, family and old age. Along the way she becomes known as an Enchantress with great skills helping people with her mystical skills in their daily lives but also fighting demons that plague people in those days. As a non Jewish reader it would really would have been helpful if the author would have furnished some more detail about some of the Jewish words and practices described. Still, it way a very interesting read.
I love Maggie Anton’s books! I only wish she wrote more of them!
Enchantress is the second in Rav Hisda’s Daughter duology. It takes place in 3rd and 4th century when the Talmud was written.
There’s so much I adore about this book! There’s the love story as well as Rav Hisdah’s daughter, Hisdadukh raising her children. We also see her rise to power and learn sorcery. First creating amulets to keep the Evil Eye away to being able to raise Ashmedai the demon king.
But what I loved most is the history within. I loved seeing the Jewish traditions and holidays as they may have been practiced thousands of years ago. I loved the Rabbis debating Torah, creating what we now know as the Talmud.
I never expected this review to be political but it’s a pretty timely point in history to be reading this book. Most does take place in Persain Babylonia, but a couple chapters are set in Roman Palestina or modern day Israel. It’s a time before Islam was founded, when Christianity was just beginning, but Jews were living amongst Romans and Persians in what we now call the Middle East. Even then Jews were persecuted for their practices. There’s a line that discusses how they have to hide their Hanukkah lights because Persians consider fire holy and using it for Jewish practices is considered a sacrilege.
In some ways this read slowly for me. But it was more that I savored it and didn’t want it to end.
This book continues the story began in Rav Hisda’s Daughter. I loved Rav Hisda’s daughter because it brought to life a time and a place I knew very little about. I loved all the details of daily life in ancient Persia and the discussions of Jewish law. Enchantress is about the same characters and takes place in the same world, but the focus is on the details of beliefs and customs about sorcery, demons, and magic. While it is once gain based on historical documents, it just wasn’t that interesting to me. I also felt the author didn’t include nearly as much detail about daily life and customs. While I still was interested in the characters and their journey, this book did not have much of a plot, and meandered about without focus on any one conflict or it’s resolution. It followed the life of the characters and what happened to them, but it didn’t make me care. After Rav Hisda’s daughter, this book was a great disappointment.
I have read all of Maggie Anton’s fiction novels. I am interested in her subject matter and totally enjoy reading the previously untold stories of Jewish women throughout our history.
I gave the book four stars because the main characters were well developed. Her descriptions were beautiful and the main plot kept me captivated. However, I found the number of places as well as the number of characters were overwhelming. Often I found that I had to reread sections to make certain I was following the story correctly. At the same time I was trying to grasp the arguments presented by the Torah teachers and students. I found it shocking that Judaism had demons enchantresses, spells etc . as part of our faith and had to stop reading to find another source to convince me this was not the author’s imagination. Would I read this again, yes but it was quite a weighty novel.
Anton is brilliant! If you are up to the challenge of reading this book, I am certain you won’t forget it.
This book was, in some ways, a reverse of the first. The first 1/2 - 2/3s grabbed me and then it faded out and had…less to do other than get to the end. It feels like Anton has parts of her heroine’s life that just are easier to write and struggles with both youth and age. It’s complicated to write characters whose stories are already written in very ancient texts and I love that she stuck so close to the texts and wish sometimes she’d let her characters drive.
Even though this is fiction, there was a lot of research on the Talmud and on the Jewish and Persian communities of 4th-century Babylon. Also, I did not realize this was the second in a series when I saw it in a bookstore, but the author explained enough from the first book that I could follow where this one picked up.
One thing that Maggie Anton's books share is that I can't put them down! Her knowledge and imagination are the ingredients to these most compelling books featuring amazing women in the context of Jewish history.
I thought the first book in the series was a much stronger book. If you're following Daf Yomi, you'll probably enjoy this book as I did following the interactions of the rabbis mentioned in the Talmud and becoming more aware of the historical backdrop of the Babylonian Talmud.
At first I wasn't sure about the style of this book. It's laconic and kind of matter of fact, but eventually it seemed like the style was in tune with the Talmud itself. (I have only ever studied it in translation.) It was really good and it's the kind of book I'll be thinking on for a while.