Jewish Values: Ceiling Made of Eggshells

Place of Publication: 
New York
Publication Year: 
Number of Pages: 
400 p.
Set at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, this historical novel highlights the events leading to the expulsion of Spain’s Jews and explores many related issues. Loma Corcia is seven-years-old as the story begins, but she matures quickly as events unfold and heavy responsibility is thrust upon her. She is proud of her Jewish heritage and fiercely protective of her family, especially her young nieces and nephews, and looks forward to someday having a family of her own. Her grandfather is a wealthy Jewish businessman who collects the taxes levied on the Jews and submits them to Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand while serving as advisor to the royal court. He begins to depend on her as his primary aide and companion. They travel across Spain attempting to be advocates for their people while proving their loyalty to the powerful and capricious monarchs. A diverse cast of vividly drawn characters inhabit Loma’s world including siblings, a faithful Muslim servant, and various members of the royal court including Isabella and Ferdinand’s young daughter. Levine, in an afterword and in interviews, explains that the grandfather’s character is loosely based on the historical figure of Isaac Abravenel, who had a similar role in fifteenth century Spain. The book also includes a glossary and a recipe for Sephardic eggs. Loma’s unusual political access, in combination with the strictures and limitations faced by women and Jews of her day, presents an interesting study reflecting not only her own era but also echoes themes which resonate throughout Jewish history up to and including our own time. Anti-Semitism, pressure to assimilate into the dominant society, choices for women between marriage and career, and a raging plague, all strike contemporary chords connecting Loma’s world with our own. The detailed introduction as well as the author’s note at the end of the book highlight many of these issues and provide historical background and context. This is a complex tale presented in a richly detailed but easy to understand format and is absolutely not to be missed.
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