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The Heretic

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The Heretic is a novel of daring adventure, tender first love, religious persecution, and political intrigue. It tells the story of a family of secret Jews living in Seville on the eve of the Spanish Inquisition.

390 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2000

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About the author

Lewis M. Weinstein

9 books496 followers
Reading the reviews of my GR friends, and sometimes adding a comment, is a great way for me to start my day in a literary frame of mind. Then I turn to my own research and writing.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 55 reviews
Profile Image for Mark.
1,330 reviews67 followers
February 9, 2017
This is a book that I wanted to read after talking a wee bit with its writer on Goodreads, he chose interesting books in reading so I was kind of curious. The previous book I read was a story taking place between the two World wars in the last century.

This story takes Place in medieval Spain where the Moors still rule a large part of the country and in a period that the Church of the Christians still wants the power over Europe through their followers. This is the story of "the conversos", baptized Jews, who are even in their new faith as industrious as ever and hence are looked upon with jealous feelings by their fellow Christians. I had never heard of this chapter of the religious history of Europe so was very curious learning more about another bloody period in medieval Europe.
This book is about a family caught in a religious fire about to break out in Europe, the Inquisition as it well known today. I myself knew the stories but the writer manages to tell this story while at the same time giving it a human face that you cannot fail to empathize with. It is about the theological reasons, jealousy and power in an era in which faith was seen as way to guide and correct people into doing what a centralized government needed them to be done. Faith was a weapon to be aimed and used.
It is a human story about religious persecution and it is told in an very well written book that tells the story of a terrible period in history where the world started to change because of people like Guttenberg who invented the printing press which would make the world an opener place in the centuries to come.

Once again the writer convinced me that he is an excellent writer of Historical novels in which he with great talent shows us insight in the darker periods of our history.

You are well advised to obtain a copy and read it.
Profile Image for Jean.
1,710 reviews743 followers
August 31, 2018
I have read several of Weinstein’s books and thoroughly enjoyed them. This is a historical novel set in 15th century Spain. The protagonist is Gabriel Catalan, a Jew that converted to Christianity, who is now rediscovering his Jewish faith. The story takes place just before the Spanish Inquisition. The Catalan family fear the Dominican priest, Father Ricardo Perez, a protégé of Torquemada.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. Every time I have read one of Lewis Weinstein’s books, I am amazed at his storytelling ability. Weinstein has the ability to paint the big picture of the story, but also provides the small details that help bring the story to life. In the other books I have read, I believe the dialogue was more fluid; but, I understand this is his first novel. After reading about the catholic church’s treatment of the Jews and Muslims in the 15th century, then picking up the newspaper and reading about the abuse by priests, I have great doubts about the Catholic Church. If you enjoy a good historical novel, try this book. I am sure you will enjoy it.

The book is 392 pages. I read it as an e-book on my Kindle reader for iPad from Amazon. The book was originally published in 2000. The copy I have was published again in 2012.

Profile Image for Lewis Weinstein.
Author 9 books496 followers
December 6, 2012
I am the author of THE HERETIC. Instead of reviewing my own book, here are two reviews which were posted on amazon ...

an amazon customer review ... Set against the Spanish Inquisition of the 15th Century, "The Heretic" provided for me an exciting way to learn about a period of history of which I knew very little. The novel is filled with ingredients that drew me into the book. Not only a portrayal of the persecution of the Jews at the hands of the Catholic Church, "The Heretic" is primarily a story that humanizes the tradgedies endured during that period. Filled with intrigue, suspense and romance the struggle for one's faith against great odds makes "The Heretic" a great read!

an amazon customer review ... Reading "The Heretic" was a truly revealing experience for me. For many years I've grqppled with the problem of why Jews have been singled out for persecution by so many different peoples at different times and at different places throughout history. "The Heretic" explained the roots of anti-Semitism more clearly than anything I have ever read.
Profile Image for Cathy DuPont.
456 reviews168 followers
April 18, 2014
If I kept a GR shelf for family sagas, this book would be proudly placed there along with The Pillars of the Earth, Gone With the Wind, and The Age Of Innocence. In my mind they are all historical novels which describe families and their trials and tribulations of living in troubling and/or interesting times.

This historical fiction was set during the Spanish Inquisition which I knew little about. During this inquisition under Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain in the late 1400’s and early 1500’s, the Catalan family tries to live a peaceful life with their own beliefs. In public the family professes to be Catholic but behind closed doors, some family members still practiced Judaism. (It was a stigma to be anything other than Catholic.)

Each and every character is fully described and so well-drawn that the reader is totally immersed in the storyline. I was vested in this family, wanting them to succeed. Reading the book I had an urgent need to know what happens next to each one. I cared about them and that's always rewarding to me as a reader.

Lewis Weinstein does what he does best and does it well. He researches before he writes and it's obvious he's aware of the world he's in when he's writing. And good for him that his writing is not complicated. I hate useless words and there are none in this book.

Weinstein's writing fulfills the need to know at that particular moment of the story and moves the reader gently around each corner with just enough to urge the reader to flip to the next page sometimes more quickly than others.

I enjoyed reading this book so much. The ending, well the ending in my estimation was incredible. Just amazing. I re-read the ending because it was surprising and so beautifully written.

This book is a winner and is the first Weinstein I've read but I assure you it won't be my last.
Profile Image for Lewis Weinstein.
Author 9 books496 followers
December 6, 2012
THE HERETIC was my first novel, published in 2000. It tells the story of the secretly Jewish Catalan family, desperately struggling to avoid the snare of the Catholic Church in the years just before the Spanish Inquisition. It is also a multi-generational love story and a description of the earliest years of printing.

The Heretic has been given high praise by Elie Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz and Faye Kellerman, and many other Jewish, Catholic and secular sources.

I invite you to read these reviews at ... http://www.amazon.com/Heretic-Lewis-M...

The Heretic is available in paper (at amazon) and on KINDLE/NOOK (at $5.99).
Profile Image for Carole P. Roman.
Author 88 books2,201 followers
September 28, 2017
Moving story about Gabriel Catalan, a converso living in 15th century Seville. For years, Jews and other minorities lived peacefully in Spain, with sporadic bouts of persecution. During one particularly tough time, they were forced to either convert or die. Many chose to die for their beliefs, but others converted to Christianity. They continued on in society and were referred to as New Christians. After a time, those who converted felt the tug of their former religion, and practiced secretly. As the years passed, and less tolerant regimes ruled the church, the conversos were targeted with suspicion that they were not being true to the their new beliefs. Families were torn apart, neighbors spied on each other. It was a time when people had to choose between living and dying, succumbing or surviving. Isabella of Spain wanted to unite her fractured nation and felt compelled to unify the country using Catholicism as the glue. Her Most Catholic Majesty, as she earned the right to be called, allowed the Inquisition to cleanse Spain.
Jews that were conversos had been very successful over the years. They had property and wealth. As people were arrested, their wealth was confiscated enriching their persecutors. Lewis M. Weinstein has written a comprehensive account of several families. Heartbreaking, yet hauntingly beautiful it is a story filled with courage and devotion. He captures the personalities of the times, the events that propel and define them, creating unforgettable characters. The horror of what happened is hard to read, the brutal harshness reflects the inhumanity of intolerance. Compelling and well-researched, lyrical and at times riveting, The Heretic is ultimately a book about the triumph of faith, and testimony to the strength of the human spirit.
Profile Image for Fergie.
388 reviews34 followers
September 3, 2012
The Heretic is a wonderfully written novel about the Spanish Inquisition and the impact it had on the Jewish population in the 15th century. In Lewis Weinstein's able hands, the history of Jewish culture trying to survive the Anti-Semitic acts of that era survive. In fact, Weinstein describes with great deft, the roots of Anti-Semitic views in Europe.
I read this book in one day, finding it difficult to put down. History, action, and love all abound in this book. Also present is the notion of ignorance and the discrimination that extends from it.
The Catholic Church's sins are outlined historically and accurately in the book. To understand history is to make an effort not to repeat it. Had the world taken greater note of the issues described so well by Mr. Weinstein, perhaps the world, and most notably, the Jewish population, may not have been forced to suffer through the Holocaust.
Students of history should read this book. People of the Catholic and Jewish faiths should read this book. It may sound like an over-reaching statement, but I believe that all humanity would be well-served reading this book. Once you read the foreward, you'll be compellingly hooked. FINISHED 9-2-12
Profile Image for Patricia O'Sullivan.
Author 11 books20 followers
May 16, 2012
Gabriel Catalan's father was stoned to death by a Christian mob despite converting to Christianity. As he nears middle age, Gabriel seeks to learn more about his father's Jewish faith. Welcomed into a community of secret Jews, Gabriel is entrusted by them to learn the new art of printing from Herr Gutenberg himself so the Jews can preserve their sacred texts and encourage fledgling Jewish communities in Spain. As Gabriel's fortunes rise, he hands over the printing operation to his son, Thomas, who has also decided to return to Judaism. But a Dominican priest with a hatred of Jews is determined to destroy the Catalans, making their every move wrought with danger. Gabriel and Thomas have befriended young Queen Isabella of Castile, but is her friendship enough to save them?

The Heretic is a serious read, dense with passages on history, theology, and daily life in 15th-century Spain. It took me awhile to read it, not because I found it dull or difficult, but because it is the kind of narrative one savors rather than devours in a single sitting. I finished the story satisfied in the way I've felt after completing difficult, but intellectually stimulating classes.

My favorite character was Thomas Catalan. He ties so many of the narrative threads together with his unusual friendships with a Spanish princess and a Moorish prince, his tender love for Esther Ardit and her son, his loyalty to his family, and his capability as an artisan and a man of business.

It is important for all people to understand how religious fanaticism destroys families, nations, and the very religions they seek to promote. Lew Weinstein challenges his readers, especially his Christian readers, to contemplate the legacy of fanaticism in the relations between Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
Profile Image for Kathy.
1,177 reviews19 followers
August 19, 2017
When I get awake thinking about a book, and get up to read it (without even making coffee first), that's a pretty good indication that the book has captured my attention. This is a well-researched, well-written historical novel about a time in human history that is still resonating today in 2017. The story is set in Spain, during the Inquisition, and yet it is a parable for our times. Religious intolerance has not gone away. In fact, it was very chilling to be reading this book as events were unfolding in Charlottesville, VA.
Profile Image for Becky.
220 reviews1 follower
April 8, 2012
I am Catholic. My entire life I have had friends that are Jewish. Until reading this compelling novel did I really understand their feelings towards Christianity. This book is a must read.
Profile Image for Judie.
716 reviews16 followers
November 19, 2013
I would assume that most people who consider reading THE HERETIC are familiar with the details of that tragic period of Jewish and Catholic history. While Lewis Weinstein’s scholarly novel does give the usual details about the predetermined trials, the tortures, and the burning of its victims, particularly at the end of the book, THE HERETIC goes much deeper into its causes.
Gabriel Catalan ’s Jewish father was forcibly converted to Catholicism,thus becoming a converso. While some Jews were able to remain Jews, the converso were to be considered full Christians. Many, however, practiced Judaism in secret. Gabriel was a jeweler in Seville, Spain, when he was introduced to Johann Gutenberg who had recently invented the printing press. His jewelry making skills proved very useful in helping him become a printer and most of his books were in Hebrew. He became an enemy of Friar Ricardo Perez who realized that “These books will allow Judaism to live....”
Gabriel’s son, Tomas, raised as a Christian, did not know about his Jewish roots as he grew up. One day, Tomas rescued the son of a Moorish prince and that relationship was to grow and prove very beneficial later on as the battles between the Moslems and the Christians raged on, each wanting control of the area.
The primary villain is Friar Ricardo Perez whose hatred of Jews is unsatiable but who carries a big secret. After being found guilty of the death by torture of a Jewish man, Perez is sent away for three years where he is able to work on his treatise, a list of all the references from Jewish sources that support his claims that the Jews are plotting to kill Christians and take over the country. Upon his release, he is able to spread his lies to the illiterate populous who believe Jews are the devil and to the more educated Old Christians whose lives have been diminished because success of the conversos.
Weinstein tells how Christianity developed as Jews rejected the message of the original Christians. He suggests that a major reason for the anti-Semitism was the fear that if the Jews were right in their beliefs, the Christians must be wrong. Gabriel tells Friar Ricardo Perez: “These false Christians are a grievous threat to Your Church. They introduce doubt where only certainty must reign.” Perez pondered the questions : “What if the Jews are still God’s Chosen People? What if Christ is not the Jewish Messiah?” “What if the Old Law of Moses is not invalid?” “If the Jews are right, then what is left to Christianity?”
Weinstein provides information about the lives of the rulers of Spain at that time beginning with King Enrique, a rather inept monarch and brother to the future Queen Isabella. He also provides a theory of why Isabella, who had good relationships with Jews, became a supporter of the Inquisition.
THE HERETIC provides an intriguing story of life in Spain during the 15th Century. It grabbed and held my interest, making me want to learn more about the characters, both the good and bad ones. The book presents well-told explanations of the political situation at the time, not only between Jews and Christians but also between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. It tells why and how Spain introduced the Inquisition and what it meant to the people involved.
The end of the book includes references for further reading. A study guide is also available at the author's blog.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in not only in the Inquisition or the history of printing, but to anyone interested in the history of Christianity and relationships between it and other religions.
Profile Image for Lewis Weinstein.
Author 9 books496 followers
February 21, 2012
FULL DISCLOSURE ... I am the author. This is a Spanish edition (published last week) of The Heretic, originally published in English in 2000.

The Heretic by Lewis M. Weinstein

Here are extracts from a review (of the English edition) from The Historical Novels Review …

... The narrative is compelling, sweeping the reader along on a well-paced journey, while the setting comes alive with the sights, sounds and smells of medieval Spain.

... Set in fifteenth century Spain, The Heretic by Lewis Weinstein tells the story of a converso Christian who rediscovers his Jewish roots, with dire consequences.

... Steeped in late medieval culture, the novel immerses the reader in a world of religious intolerance and cross-cultural cooperation.

... Mr. Weinstein clearly did a wealth of research and manages to weave most of it in skillfully.

... His characters, both fictional and historical, are vital living beings, well motivated, true-to-life and, more importantly, true to the period.

... Gabriel Catalan, his wife Pilar, their son Tomas and daughter-in-law Esther, shine through the book, confronting their past and fighting for a future for their family.

... Set against the turbulent period in Spanish history just prior to the establishment of the Spanish Inquisition, the story follows Gabriel’s quest to preserve the great works of Judaism using the newly invented printing press.

... He and his family risk their lives to keep their activities hidden from the Church authorities, most notably from the Dominican monk, Friar Ricardo Perez, a protégé of Torquemada.

... The history of the relationship between the Jewish people and the Christians is incorporated in a believable way so that readers become acquainted with the historical background behind the rise of the Inquisition.
Profile Image for Lisa.
Author 5 books30 followers
February 27, 2014
This historical novel is well-researched and the story is captivating, although difficult to read in places because of the terrible violence perpetrated against Jews and forcibly baptized Christians (and their descendants) suspected of "reverting" to Judaism in medieval Spain. The author captures well the dangers in the lives of these conversos and, for those who wish to live as Jews, the risks they ran to practice their faith and be true to their heritage. All of this is in the context of the lives of the Catalan family and their associates, for whom I came to care. How tragic that so many people were persecuted for their beliefs based on false and perverted doctrines, when the value of every human being as a child of God and the importance of agency and freedom of conscience are fundamental to God's true plan of salvation. The author waxes didactic in places (as I just did), trying to get the details of the various points of view into the record, but that did not mar the book for me--it was fascinating, if deeply disappointing at times, to learn the positions of those who, as Milton wrote in Areopagitica, use the means of "a false and bloody superstition" to protect what is supposed to be a loving and agency-respecting truth. The book ended too soon for me--I would have liked to see what happened to later generations of the Catalan family--so this is perhaps a call for a sequel. For readers who wish to know more about the position of Jews in medieval Spain and get good mystery stories into the bargain, I also recommend Caroline Roe's "Isaac of Girona" series. Congratulations to Lewis Weinstein on a job well done, and some truly impressive support for The Heretic from notable people such as Elie Wiesel and Cardinal O'Connor, among others.
Profile Image for Christine Boyer.
311 reviews33 followers
May 19, 2019
Well, this was an interesting choice for me. A few months back, I received a "friend" request from Lewis Weinstein. So I thought I'd check out his books. This title sounded interesting, so I picked it up from the library.

I enjoyed learning about the history of this very specific time and place - 15th century Spain, during the time of the of the inquisition. Since I'm someone who loves and studies history, I'm not sure why I didn't already know more about Queen Isabella, the forced conversions of the Jews, etc. I thought it was well-researched and informative. I've been wanting to visit Spain for a while, and this book just fueled that desire even more!

I'm not a religious person at all (atheist? agnostic? secular?), so some of the details about Judaism and Christianity were not necessarily my cup of tea. A few parts felt too "instructional" and some of the dialogue was a bit forced because of these instructional moments. However, all in all, it was a compelling, historical family drama and I'm very glad I read it!
August 17, 2015
I finished The Heretic today. It is beautifully written and it is obviously carefully and thoroughly researched. The novel is a historical fictional account of the elimination of the Jewish population by the Catholic Church in Spain just before and during the reign of Queen Isabella. Moral questions are constantly put before the reader. Choices have to be made between religious commitment to the Jewish faith or to the safety and survival of the family. The wife and mother, Pilar, is much more interested in preserving the family, while her husband, Gabriel believes it is imperative to show love for the Jewish God.
Profile Image for David Lowther.
Author 11 books27 followers
April 19, 2015
I approached The Heretic with a small amount of trepidation because, as a gentile, I wasn't certain that I would follow the passages of the explanation of the Jewish faith which I knew to be contained in the book.
In the event I needn't have been concerned at all. Yes there was much of what I expected but all of this was wrapped around a thrilling and superbly told story and added strength to what Lewis Weinstein was trying to achieve; to give readers a complete understanding of how and why the Jews were treated so appallingly in fifteenth century Spain. The character descriptions are stunning, location is convincingly described and the action sequences exciting. I loved the hero and hated the villain but this is no knight in shining armour story. The inquisitors are seriously evil and misguided and any claim made that they can justify doing what they did in the name of the Catholic church is complete nonsense. Small wonder that Pole John Paul II apologised, amongst other things, for the murderous Inquisition and the centuries long persecution of the Jewish people. This feels, frankly, grossly inadequate.
Woven into this terrific tale are real life people like Johannes Gutenberg of the printing press fame and Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile whose marriage led to the unification of Spain in the 16th. century.
I've always believed that the hatred of Jews was motivated by them being held responsible for the death of Christ and by envy of their skills and talents which have enriched the history of our planet. That much is confirmed in The Heretic. The holocaust, however, can only be perhaps partly explained by this. Hitler's detestation of non Aryan racial groups is maybe a stronger motivation for the Nazis. The Fuhrer did, after all, persecute the Christian churches though not, of course, with such vehemence.
The Heretic is a very fine book indeed.

David Lowther
Author of The Blue Pencil (thebluepencil.co.uk) and
Liberating Belsen (to be published by Sacristy Press on May 1st.)
1,445 reviews16 followers
August 25, 2015
A well written story that will pull at your heartstrings because of the amount of loss and betrayal that occurs when the Catholic Church decides there can be no other religions to compete with them in Spain.

Gabriel Catalan and his family live in Seville where they are called Conversos because they converted to Catholicism to save their family from the torment they would get as Jews. However, Gabriel and a number of other Conversos are secret Jews. Many Catholics do not trust them yet the Conversos have been the ones to keep the country running smoothly. When the Spanish Inquisition begins Gabriel and his family as well as many friends are at risk of being caught in their secret lives and being put to death. This does not stop Gabriel and his son Tomas from hiding Gutenberg Printers so that they may print volumes of Jewish books for the future. There is hope among the Jewish population that things will one day be very different.

As I read this story I kept thinking about the present state of our world and how we seem to be becoming less tolerant again. We were supposed to have learned from the past but we seem to be ignoring it and in some cases pretending that it never happened. How sad for our future generations.

I believe that everyone should read this book as a reminder of what was and what should now be. When we think of intolerance, Hitler and the Nazis always come to mind but there is a whole lot more in our history than that. My hope for mankind is that someday everyone will "give peace a chance" and I believe this story is trying to lead us in that direction.
Profile Image for Paul Fadoju.
97 reviews
December 11, 2013
A touching well written book. Set during the Spanish Inquisition it shows the beautiful portrayal of a Jewish Family as they try to live in a culture that denies their humanity. I was touched with the tapestry of their lives, the length they went to live the lives that was true to themselves....and as you go through their struggles, you ask yourself a simple question what would I do in their situation. This ugly part of the Christian history is not well known to the modern church and it's nice to know that society is moving to an enlighten era where we are tolerant to others who are not like us and long may it continue where we can all celebrate the Humanity that we all share together.

The sad thing about it is that many professed Christians today who uses the Bible as their standard has not read works of Jewish Rabbis and Scholars, those who were before and after Christ. Men like Philo of Alexandria, hillier the Elder, how can such works not ennoble the Human spirit; but if you are under the notion that a part of mankind has been rejected by divinity, then you lose all that divinity has deposited in the rejected part. Thanks Lewis, your work is over a decade old but speaks volume to the new generation.
41 reviews3 followers
July 23, 2012
I would highly recommend Mr. Weistein's story of Spain during the time of the reconquista and the inquisition. It captures the conflicts in a land populated by Christians, Jews and Musliims in a remarkably fresh way. At this time the the Christian princes and princesse were involved in a struggle to reconcile holy wars manifested by the crusades and jihad, in a way that is difficult to appreciate in modern terms, which are largely a response to the religious passions of the times.However, these were themes which shaped the minds and actions of those living at the time.

Particularly interesting is the way the author weaves the impact of technology into the story. We underestimate the power that the printing press had and the threat it represented to society organized around oral transmissions.The book paints these pressures in a clear fashion.

The story is not simply a history but also a vivid presentation of the people living in a dramatically changing society, who become victims of the forces roiling their society, and indeed the evolution of that society.

The story is well paced and full of action,has vivid characterization and makes you think. Not bad!

Profile Image for Anna Bendewald.
Author 6 books49 followers
August 14, 2020
Best Saga Ever. Period.
Let me preface by saying that my husband loves Game of Thrones, so sagas are his taste, while I tend toward a bit less weighty reading - but I was consumed by this story! The Heretic is a book for the ages and can be put on the same shelf as Tolkien's The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings.

Weinstein's deft weaving of fascinating characters is page-turning situations during no ordinary times opens the pages up and his readers fall helplessly through.

The Spanish Inquisition comes to life at the end of the 1400s and beginning of 1500s when religion is at the heart of most people's existences and can get a person killed. We care about these characters that Weinstein has scrupulously researched so they flow from history through his pen and light up our imaginations. He's a masterful writer whose clear effortless choice of words make it a pleasure to read and never leaves us wanting!

If you can't travel during a pandemic -- get a Lewis Weinstein book!!!
Profile Image for Chuck.
855 reviews
March 16, 2014
The author, Lewis Weinstein, is one of my Goodreads friends. Outstanding job, Lew. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and this is historical fiction of the first order. It is very well written, exhaustively researched and historically accurate. This book increased my knowledge of the religious conflict in 15th century Spain by one hundred fold. The folks writing positive acknowledgements about the book include Elie Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz and Faye Kellerman. It tells the story from
the viewpoint of Gabrel Catalan, a Jewish goldsmith whose ancestors were
forced to convert to Christianity under threat of death and, as a result, were known as Conversos. The story lays out the events leading to the infamous Spanish Inquisition. Mr. Weinstein does a great job of introducing his characters and making them into real people. I heartily recommend it.
Profile Image for Pat K.
661 reviews9 followers
October 29, 2014
An historic telling of the treatment, by the Catholic church, of the Jews in Spain, leading up to the period of the Spanish inquisition. I have read a number of books about the annihilation of the Cathars and other religious groups by the Catholic Church, and I had realized the Jews were also persecuted by the church, but this story explores not only the actions of the church, but also the tenacity and resourcefulness of the Jewish people. A slowish read but a thoroughly interesting story.
Profile Image for Peggie Hart.
32 reviews5 followers
November 11, 2014
I loved this book! Tells a part of European history I knew little about. "The Heretic" explains the rationale of the Catholic Church used to persecute the Jews of Spain. Lessons for our own time. I want to learn more about the Spanish Inquisition period so I am now reading the newly released book "Isabella The Warrior Queen" by Kirstin Downey. Looks to be another very interesting book.
Profile Image for Mike.
229 reviews14 followers
September 26, 2012
I'm not sure where to start with my review of Lewis Weinstein's 'The Heretic', so I'll start by saying that it was a damn good read. I think that part of my problem here is that I read the sequel first, and while both books are very good works of fiction in their own right, there's always a little less suspense when one knows, even in the broadest terms, what is going to happen down the line.

My misfortune aside, The Heretic is, like its sequel The Pope's Conspiracy, a very well-written, historically and culturally intriguing novel. It follows the life of the Catalans, a family of 'conversos' - those forced by the Church to convert from Judaism to Christianity - at one of those painfully numerous persecutions of Jews. The story is set in and around Seville which, in the middle of the 15th century was being fought over by an emergent Catholic Spain and the Moorish occupiers who had held much of Iberia for centuries.

As with The Pope's Conspiracy, the characters are very well created and developed. I'm happy to have never had to write about a character as tough to depict as Gabriel Catalan's wife, Pilar! Unlike TPC, however, I was lucky enough to have only the most basic of backgrounds in the historical setting, and the book was all the more enjoyable for it. Lewis Weinstein has chosen a very interesting period of history in which to set this series (if it is to become a series), and I find myself nosing around parts of online book shops to which I wouldn't ordinarily pay much attention.

If Spain or Spanish history are your thing, or if you enjoy historical fiction, then I would highly recommend The Heretic. This is especially true since the author is good enough to have given a select bibliography at the end, and there are fews things better than a book that leads into other books!
Profile Image for Carol.
13 reviews2 followers
August 6, 2012
A great read and strong reminders of how powerful fear can be in causing good people to hate each other. I also loved the deep loving marriages. The characters were very real, the dialogue honest, the descriptions vivit and the facts (historical and biblical) so well researched that I learned a great deal while enjoying a wonderful story. Thank you Lewis.
Profile Image for Steve.
529 reviews18 followers
October 14, 2016
What risks are your beliefs worth? During the Spanish Inquisition, this question permeates the lives of the Jews and conversos, those who had converted to Catholicism under duress. With noteworthy historical accuracy, Weinstein brings the fictional Catalan family and its nemesis Friar Perez, into the realistic world, one including Gutenberg, the father of the printing press, the infamously evil monk Torquemada, and various members of the royal families of the kingdoms of Spain that were not yet united as one country. There are even Moorish kingdoms that play an important role in the story. From its deeply unsettling beginning with the revelation of Gabriel Catalan’s father to the growing to adulthood of Catalan’s son, the reader gets to know this and other loving committed families and the passions for beliefs that transcend unspeakable cruelties by those of supposedly high moral stature, those who come from a belief system which finds a grave threat in the beliefs of the Catalans and families like them. Catalan, his family members, and other characters are well made and easy for the reader to relate to. This book is eminently worth reading, particularly if one subscribes to Santayana’s warning about those who fail to learn from history, to anyone of deep faith and belief, and to anyone concerned with intolerance, the theme Weinstein expresses candidly and vividly in his story, characters, and afterword. A caveat: those with weak stomachs or delicate sensibilities may find that the cruelties committed in the name of righteous intolerance are so emotionally laden, particularly since they honor historical accuracy, that the horrors sometime seem overwhelming. There are acts of courage and moral strength, of celebration, and those of wisdom well expressed, also, and these moments are the ones that make putting up with the others worthwhile and inspirational. Recommended to any thoughtful reader who can cope with the ugly moments.
Profile Image for Julie.
139 reviews
August 21, 2012
Wow. It took me awhile to actually read this book because when I first stumbled upon it, it wasn't available on kindle. Then I waited because I needed fast moving books to keep interested with my busy life. Who says fast moving needs to be mindless? Couldn't put the book down. Finished in two weeks and was sad when the story was over. Well written historical fiction. Reminds me why I love historical fiction. Characters are believable and so full of life and stories to tell. Helps bring clarity to a dark time, but also the resiliency of people. My own great grandmother was forced to convert to get into America. Only now after her death have I reconnected my family with our Jewish roots. I really understood on a basic level the emotions Tomas and Gabriel had to their ancestors religion and so grateful I can live a Jewish life with my children now.
May 7, 2013
Everyone, be you Christian, Catholic, Jewish....matters not this is a book which will open your eyes and broaden your knowledge of how religious persecution took place. You will be astonished at how religion was used to severly punish people - so times for no good reason. you owe it yo yourself to put this book as a must read..when you are done you will have a much better understanding of our human race. GREAT BOOK!
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31 reviews2 followers
May 9, 2014
I found this book written about religious intolerance in Fifteenth-Century Spain interesting and informative and quite shocking. The descriptions of characters, costumes,scenery,landscapes and religious traditions made this book come alive for me.A Good read, this book really opened my mind about religious thought and dogma. I recommend this book to all.
1 review1 follower
December 10, 2007
This is a pretty good book about "conversos" or Jews forced to convert to Christianity in 14th-16th century Spain. The storyline is actually about a family of conversos who try to re-establish their Judaism in a time when Jews are persecuted.
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