Thursday, July 24, 2008

Book Review: Rashi's Daughters, Book 1: Joheved

Recently, I read a semi-historical novel based on Talmudic lore about Rashi (Rabbi Solomon ben Issac) and his three daughters. Because this book includes some of my favorite subjects - Judaism and history - I was immediately drawn into the masterfully woven story surrounding Rashi's family. Of course, as a novel, not every part of the story is a fact. However, I was surprised at how much I really did learn about Rashi's (and his daughters) life and about the Talmudic literature that so gracefully weaves itself throughout the pages of this story. Joheved is someone I can imagine myself being friends with - she's caring, a leader, not one to be in the "popular crowd", but also is very brave. You see, Rashi decided to teach his daughters Talmud, which was a huge faux pas in his day and age. Being the oldest daughter, Joheved blazed a trail for the rest of her sisters as she studied Talmud with her father, much to her mother's chagrin. This book is filled with strong female characters, not only Joheved, but her grandmother, Leah, Rashi's mother who in real-life wrote letters to the government in Troyes, France concerning her vineyard. Yes, Rashi's family REALLY were vinters...that's why we have Rashi wine! (My husband and I love it so much that this is actually what we served at our wedding!)

Back to the story, I was not in love with all of the book, however. Unfortunately, the book does become a little too graphic for my taste as Joheved gets married to a young, shy Talmudic scholar named Meir. Meir is a likeable character, and even kind of charming at times. I just didn't need to know the intimate details of their wedding night and struggles to conceive children (which they become quite good at later on!).

Issues aside, I am glad that I read this book and I can say I recommend it, but just watch out for the graphic parts. I also would like to tell you that I am reading the second book now, which focuses on Rashi's second daughter, Miriam. Honestly, I have almost jumped ship on this second book at least a dozen times. I don't want to give too much away, but I will say that Book 2 has been a major disappointment after seeing what Maggie Anton has to offer from reading Book 1. I will finish it, not because I really need to, but rather that's how I am with my reading fetish. I just HAVE to finish a book that I begin. I can't wait to see what Book 3, which I'm assuming will be called Rachel, after Rashi's third daughter.


Maggie said...

For those who find my adult "Rashi's Daughters"novels too sexually explicit, Jewish Publication Society has just published my YA version of Book I, "Rashi's Daughter: Secret Scholar." Most of what happens after the wedding, including the wedding night, is missing, making the book appropriate for ages 10 and older.

Jenny M said...

Thanks for the heads up Maggie! I will definitely check out the YA version. You are an amazing writer, and as I said, the book's great plot and characters definitely outweigh my personal qualms with the intimate moments.