Lisa's Reviews > The Heretic
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.
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