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The Weight of Ink
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Archive: Other Books > The Weight of Ink - Kadish - 5 stars

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Jgrace | 2762 comments The Weight of Ink - Kadish
Audio performance by Corrie James
5 stars

This book had everything that I want from historical fiction. It had believable contemporary characters in a familiar academic environment. It tied the dual plotlines together in a way that made universal connections across time. It is a book about women who face challenges, choices, and the constraints of having both an intellect and a heart. I will continue to think about this one for a long time.

In the contemporary story, an aging and ill, English history professor, Helen Watt, is made aware of a long hidden cache of 17th century documents. They are written in Hebrew, Portuguese, and occasionally in English. Determined to study this historical windfall while she is still able, Helen arranges its sale to her university. Reluctantly admitting her physical limitations she accepts the help of Aaron Levy, a young American graduate student. They have an interesting, prickly working relationship that allows Kadish to fill in the background history of two complex and repressed characters.

The documents lead them to the unexpected discovery of Ester Velasquez, a female scribe to a blind rabbi, resident in London just before plague infests the city. Ester is not simply a scribe. She has an unusual intellect and has received an unusual education. Through the rabbi she corresponds with religious leaders and students of the Talmud. She is incapable of closing her mind. “I cried out then and still: why say woman may not follow her nature if it lead her to think, for must not even the meanest beast follow its nature? And why forbid woman or man from questioning what we are taught, for is not intelligence holy?”

Ester is a wonderful character. She walks right out of the constraints of her own century and into the 21st. She is a survivor. She survives fire, poverty, loss of family, religious persecution and the reality of gender roles in her time. While the English academics of the other storyline try to disinter her secrets from the scraps she left behind, lucky readers get to know everything about her as it happens. There are still some secrets. A major strength of this book is the author’s skill in revealing the inner lives of every character gradually as each document is uncovered.

This book is rich in details and connections. The characters in this book represent a wide range of Jewish history and culture; the rabbi, a martyr of the inquisition; Ester, an orphan, rejected by the conservative Amsterdam Jews; Rivka, a servant and refugee of an Eastern European pogrom; Aaron, the secular son of an American rabbi. And, Helen Watt, a gentile, whose only love was a young Israeli Holocaust survivor. Excellent characters, and very skillful writing.

I will continue to think about this one for a long time.


KateNZ | 2220 comments This sounds beautiful as well as intriguing


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Wonderful review. I'm reading this book sometime this fall and I can't wait.


Booknblues | 5519 comments Great review. I loved this book and rated it 5 stars as well. I'm sure it will make my best of 2018 list.


message 5: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy | 8300 comments He wasn’t necessarily a fan. I was chatting with Chase about NAA, for which he was under informed. Might he want to sign up for Fall Baseball? Price goes up again August 6th.


message 6: by Joanne (new)

Joanne (joabroda1) | 7255 comments This sounds wonderful-right in my wheel-house-unfortunate my library does not have it. On my "hunting for" list at local re-sales


message 7: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy | 8300 comments Shoot - that was meant as a personal text! No wonder my neighbor hasn’t responded.


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Amy I was so confused!!!


Jgrace | 2762 comments Joanne wrote: "This sounds wonderful-right in my wheel-house-unfortunate my library does not have it. On my "hunting for" list at local re-sales"

My local library didn't have it either. I put it on a 'please, buy' list. The county library only had an e copy with a long waiting list when I wanted it. I just checked again, and they've acquired 3 copies for all of LA county, again, long waiting list.
I think this book is a bit of a sleeper that is just beginning to get attention.

I used an audible credit for it. It is a good audiobook, but I also bought a kindle copy so I could highlight. Lot's of highlighting.


Jgrace | 2762 comments Amy wrote: "Shoot - that was meant as a personal text! No wonder my neighbor hasn’t responded."

I think you can delete it if you want to, Amy. But it gave me a laugh. :)


Booknblues | 5519 comments Amy wrote: "Shoot - that was meant as a personal text! No wonder my neighbor hasn’t responded."

Haha! I thought "Wow! Amy is really out in left field with this one. I wonder what she means."


message 12: by JoLene (new) - added it

JoLene (trvl2mtns) | 1532 comments Yeah, this has been on my list for a while. Glad to see the good review!


message 13: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy | 8300 comments My eight-year-old is back from camp. We’re getting right back into sports signups and summer and fall planning. He’s the with the neighbor playing Frisbee and basketball right now. I really cherish these times.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Amy wrote: "My eight-year-old is back from camp. We’re getting right back into sports signups and summer and fall planning. He’s the with the neighbor playing Frisbee and basketball right now. I really cherish..."

These are great times Amy.:) Enjoy them.


message 15: by Susie (new) - added it

Susie | 4488 comments Jgrace, do you recommend the audio or do you think it would better to read the print version?


Jgrace | 2762 comments Susie wrote: "Jgrace, do you recommend the audio or do you think it would better to read the print version?"

I had both, Susie. The audio is fine, but when something is very detailed and the writing is excellent, I like to have print. It's a long book, so having both did let me finish it faster. It's easier to reread the best bits with print.

I think you'll be good whichever way you go. :)


message 17: by Susie (new) - added it

Susie | 4488 comments Thanks for your advice. 😊


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