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The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,615 ratings  ·  239 reviews
The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is a dazzling novel of mothers and daughters, stories told and untold, and the binds that tie four generations of women.

Gabriela's mother Luna is the most beautiful woman in all of Jerusalem, though her famed beauty and charm seem to be reserved for everyone but her daughter. Ever since Gabriela can remember, she and Luna have struggled to con
Hardcover, 374 pages
Published April 5th 2016 by Thomas Dunne (first published 2013)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,615 ratings  ·  239 reviews

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Apr 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: diverse-reads
Following the binds and curses that tie four generations of women together, this dazzling novel of mothers and daughters held me practically spell-bound to the pages.

Gabriela's mother Luna is the most beautiful woman in all of Jerusalem, though her famed beauty and charm seem to be reserved for everyone but her daughter. Ever since Gabriela can remember, she and Luna have struggled to connect. But when tragedy strikes, Gabriela senses there's more to her mother than painted nails and lips.

Olga Godim
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mainstream
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A powerful family saga, this book is brutally honest. It starts with the narrator, Gabriela, talking about her childhood in the 1950s in Jerusalem. Gabriela’s relationship with her mother Luna is strained at best. Perhaps, it would be even more fitting to describe it as mutual aversion. From the very beginning of the book, Luna is portrayed as a dismal mother and a horrid wife, a cold, spiteful woman. I disliked her immensely a
Dec 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
This book took me by surprise. I had read other reviews about it, and they mostly agreed on how good it was, but it was even better.

This is the story of the Ermosa family, Sephardic Jews that live in Jerusalem. Four generations described from the 1930's to the 1970's.
Narrated by Gabriela, Luna's daughter, from the fourth generation, it's a fascinating trip into a culture and lifestyle broken by war and emigration. It's also the story of how the women in the family are cursed by loving men who d
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it
This historical fiction novel is a story of four generations of a family in Jerusalem. For the positive aspects of the book, I would say it was interesting to see the culture and experience of the Sephardim Ladino Israelis of the time. (Sephardim and Ladino refers to Spanish Jews, and the closest allusion we have to this today is Latina or Hispanic Americans.) The elder grandmother would perform “Livianos,” an active prayer ritual process, to drive out demons and toxins or any internal problem. ...more
Sep 25, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the historical aspects of the book but didn't really warm to Luna or Gabriela and found the swapping between first and third person narrative annoying. ...more
Feb 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
I was disinclined to read a book about a beauty queen, but the author is Israeli so I looked beyond the title. I discovered that it's a family saga that partly deals with the period before Israel was a state. My grandmother, who was born in what was then the Ottoman Empire in 1905, spent her childhood in Jerusalem. So I'm always interested in learning more about the history of Jews in what would later be known as Israel. I agreed to review it and received an ARC via Net Galley in return for thi ...more
Maria Beltrami

A curse runs in the blood of the family Ermosa, a distinguished family of Sephardic Jews coming from the first wave of return before the British mandate of Palestine: the men of the family marry women who do not love, and women, not loved, pass the curse down to their children, along with a pride tipically Spanish and a sense of duty worthy of a Puritan.
And it's so that, as punishment, Mercada chooses as bride for his beautiful son Gabriel, guilty of falling in love with the wrong woman, the ugl
Jan 11, 2016 rated it liked it
This story is of family saga spanning four generations told in a very simple prose. The story starts a bit boring. It’s all about family dynamics; who was liked the most; who said what – “maybe a hundred times.”

Then Gabriela, the main character, learns the story of her mother and grandparents from her grandmother. Her family roots went to Toledo when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled the Jews from Spin in the 15th century. This short part is interesting and rich in cultural details.

Jennifer S. Brown
This book completely swept me away. The story is lush as it covers three generations of women in Jerusalem, beginning in the early 1900s and working its way to the 1970s. I confess, the ending felt a little rushed and I wasn't completely satisfied for it, but the rest of the book is so exquisite, I still give it five stars and highly recommend it. This is what historical fiction should be!
Elizabeth Serniak
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Started off slow but after 100 pages I couldn’t put it down. Nicely developed characters and a look into the interesting dynamics of a family. I enjoyed the historical setting of Jerusalem in the 1940s.
Tina Walker
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars actually. The first 50 or so pages are slow and spent setting up the story. After that it’s hard to put down as you become immersed in this story. I loved all the characters. It’s hard to pick a favorite. One can almost relate to all the female characters of this book. Women are strong and do what they have to do no matter what race, religion or time they live in.
Sep 11, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very powerful family story, told, as is the fashion these days not in a linear direction but going back and forth through different time periods. I am slowly getting used to to this as so many books seem to be written this way now.
It's a wonderful book for Jerusalamites, local places, streets and neighborhoods are frequently mentioned which allowed me to really vizualize what was going on.
It also helps to know Israeli and Jewish history as the events in Jerusalem during the first half
Anne Martin
Mar 31, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley-arc
What a sad book! I'm trying to understand if it is about the impossibility of communication between human beings, or about prejudice and bigotry, or just about a family saga.
In the beginning of the twentieth century, many families of Spanish Sephardi Jews are already in Israel, and we will get close to some of them. They form a closed community, not accepting any strangers, by the way of arranged marriages. Raphael falls in love with an Ashkenazi, and being with her, marrying her would be a sin.
Sue Seligman
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredible story of four generations of mothers and daughters against the backdrop of Israel in the years prior to, during, and following World War II, and continuing through the 1970s. The book is a translation from Hebrew, and the setting is vividly described, every, sight, sound and smell is so realistic that the reader is transported to the places of the story. Gabriela Siton, the protagonist, is the daughter of Luna, the Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, a woman who is impeccably groome ...more
Dana Blitstein
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it
If you are looking for a good story, but light, this is it! Interesting to hear about the Askanzi/Sephardi rift in Israel at that time. It did get a bit depressing/repetitive as the book went on and has some story lines that were a bit inconsistent. Overall, it was a good read. Entertaining.
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I read this novel for book club and it made for an interesting discussion. I think I liked it more than others in my book club did, but there were also some aspects of the story that didn't work as well for me. It was interesting and kept me turning the pages, not wanting to put it down. I felt bad for the characters, either because their husbands didn't love them or they were pining for their true love and had to settle for less. I was hoping for something good to happen to the characters. Most ...more
Jamie (Books and Ladders)
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

DNF @ 5%

I found this one to be a little boring and couldn't keep my attention. After staring at it for two months, I decided to just quit it for good. This is literally a case of it's not you, it's me.

Books and Ladders | Queen of the Bookshelves | Books Are My Fandom | Twitter | Instagram | Bloglovin'
Talia Carner
Apr 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish-fiction
Sarit Yishai-Levi has captured both the unbroken thread running through generations of a Sepharadic family and the intricacies of everyday life unspooling against the backdrop of Jerusalem--mostly under the British mandate of the 1920-1940. As sensuously infused with sights, sounds, and smells as a Jerusalem market, and as finely detailed and colorful as a Levantine tapestry, the novel is a thrilling exploration of a daughter coming to terms with her strained relationship with her mother.

For tho
Rhonda Lomazow
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was immediately drawn into the lives of this family in Jerusalem Luna a true beauty her daughter Gabriella with whom she has difficult relationship.We meet Gabriellas aunts Luna's sisters who she bonds with.A family saga a chance to see what life was like in Jerusalem&a family you will not forget.Moments of sadness moments of joy a touch of humor a wonderful read. ...more
Aug 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
meh. Often unclear who was narrating. Needed better editing. Main characters not that likable.
A family saga of the (fictitious ) Ermosa family, a family of Sephardic Jews that spans four generations through the 20th century until the late 60's. The setting is in Jerusalem and the main theme emphasizes on the female members of the family and on the fact that they end up living with men that do not love them. I enjoyed the pictorial language that was used, seasoned with allot of Ladino expressions. I enjoyed the setting, Jerusalem, the city that I grew up in, with it's old neighborhoods an ...more
Lisa Bernstein
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was very enjoyable and gave an interesting look at 3 generations in pre-State Palestine and later Israel. I appreciated that the family was Sephardic, and the book includes a lot of Ladino, which is a fun change from so many books with Ashkenazi perspectives. I only noticed one error in the book, but it's the most egregious error I've ever found in a book: on the main character's wedding night, it describes her with her husband, but then you turn the page to page 228, and suddenly inst ...more
Linda Lpp
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book was filled with war time stressors in all aspects of the extended Ermosa family for several generations.
I found the author did an excellent job of painting a picture of each family member. How they often came together, and at other times asserted their individual passions hiding activities from each other when they knew the negative sanctions that would result.
By the end of the book I felt drained. When was the so-called curse on the families loveless marriages going to end? There rest
Aug 28, 2019 rated it liked it
This was a tough read. So much anxiety and stress dominating the Ermosa family. The novel follows the life of Luna, an extravagantly beautiful woman. She is hauty, spiteful and terribly spoiled throughout her entire life, making those around her frustrated and miserable. I'm not sorry I read this book, although it was a challenge to complete. ...more
May 05, 2020 rated it did not like it
It was impossible to stay interested in it. Some of us have great relationships that are intimate in our lives making it difficult to want to stay invested in reading material that is all about people cheating on each other. There's more to this novel than that, but there was so much of it that I quickly lost interest. ...more
Laurie Phipps
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Compelling inter-generational story, blending a historical perspective of pre-independence Israeli culture and the psychological consequences of postpartum depression and unrealistic societal expectations.
Afaf Finan
Oct 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
It is a type of family saga, set in Jerusalem in the early 1920’s. I found it enjoyable except for the fact that there was too much repetition in the telling. That and the use of Ladino, Arabic and English words and phrases in single sentences, uttered by some of the family members, was a bit over the top!
Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
This book is a family saga spanning four generations of women in a Jewish family in Jerusalem. It is filled with turmoil, grief and love and I liked that Yishai-Levi focused on the various, and often complicated, female relationships within a family (mother, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, grandmother...). The story is told via different eras with Gabriela sometimes picking up the reigns of the story and other times the story was told in the third person.

The author also gives her readers a cl
Shira Reiss
Sep 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite book of historical fiction that I have read this year. The descriptive language used to describe the emotional complexity and depth of the characters; 4 generations of the Ermosa family, (a Sephardic family originally from Spain), flowed beautifully with a plot that engaged all of my senses during a period of history in Jerusalem from the 1900’s to the 1970’s. I loved how the author weaved Ladino phrases into the story, as well. I had a hard time putting the book down and was ...more
Lynn Horton
Dec 10, 2018 rated it liked it
I love Jerusalem, so the title, which seems incongruous, intrigued me. The story is well written, although the protagonist—and it's a little hard to tell who that person is because of all the bouncing in the story—is an absolutely horrible, totally narcissistic human being. I kept reading in hopes that she'd eventually outgrow her character flaws. The family's love for each other borders on the dysfunctional and enabling.

I enjoyed the historical aspect of the story, however, and that saved the
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