Customer Reviews for

By Fire, By Water

Average Rating 4
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Outstanding Read

I consider myself somewhat of a specialist in this period, having majored in History at Brown, concentrating on medieval Spain. As historical novels go, Kaplan got the history about as right as possible, down to many obscure details. But this book is far from being a m...
I consider myself somewhat of a specialist in this period, having majored in History at Brown, concentrating on medieval Spain. As historical novels go, Kaplan got the history about as right as possible, down to many obscure details. But this book is far from being a mere history lesson. It's a gripping tale, with characters you can relate to on many levels, who are caught up in a time of unstoppable change. We see Columbus and the others as part of a larger picture. The reader's interest never flags.

posted by compulsive_reader64 on August 27, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Compelling Time in History

I don't know exactly how to say that I liked reading about this period in history. It infuriated me sometimes, but it felt important to know. I'd heard about the Spanish Inquisition, of course, but I hadn't really thought about who might have been targeted. I was appall...
I don't know exactly how to say that I liked reading about this period in history. It infuriated me sometimes, but it felt important to know. I'd heard about the Spanish Inquisition, of course, but I hadn't really thought about who might have been targeted. I was appalled at the ultimate action the authorities took against the Jewish people. I read Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance at the same time that I read this book, completely unintentionally, and the two books fit well together. By Fire, By Water gave me the background and Poison showed me how the Jews fared afterward. Needless to say, it wasn't that well.

I never quite connected to Santángel. I think it would be safe to say that I'm a coward. I would have kept my mouth shut and been at the Church all the time. That wouldn't have been any guarantee of safety in that suspicious, greedy climate, but it would have been better than running around asking questions about your Jewish roots. I just didn't quite get his motivation. He's obviously an intelligent man, he knows what's going on with the Inquisition, so why take the chance? Perhaps if the story had been written from his point of view, I would have understood better. I occasionally have this complaint about third person point of view, so this could just be me.

I did like Judith a lot. She's taking care of her nephew and her sister-in-law's father. How many people would take on the old man? But she does her best for them both. She doesn't have many options as a woman at this time, but she does what she needs to in order to survive. She becomes a silversmith. She establishes her own trade, and she learns to read. I was very impressed with her. As her fortunes rise and fall, she continues to adjust her plans accordingly. She's a survivor who manages to stay pretty true to herself. She's a character I would like to know in real life.

I feel like I learned some eye-opening bits of history. I recommend this to anyone curious about this period of time. The author calls it cataclysmic and I would have to agree. These periods of violence and hatred are never easy to read about, but it is important that we remember them so we never travel those paths again.

posted by TheIntrovertedReader on August 23, 2010

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  • Posted August 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Compelling Time in History

    I don't know exactly how to say that I liked reading about this period in history. It infuriated me sometimes, but it felt important to know. I'd heard about the Spanish Inquisition, of course, but I hadn't really thought about who might have been targeted. I was appalled at the ultimate action the authorities took against the Jewish people. I read Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance at the same time that I read this book, completely unintentionally, and the two books fit well together. By Fire, By Water gave me the background and Poison showed me how the Jews fared afterward. Needless to say, it wasn't that well.

    I never quite connected to Santángel. I think it would be safe to say that I'm a coward. I would have kept my mouth shut and been at the Church all the time. That wouldn't have been any guarantee of safety in that suspicious, greedy climate, but it would have been better than running around asking questions about your Jewish roots. I just didn't quite get his motivation. He's obviously an intelligent man, he knows what's going on with the Inquisition, so why take the chance? Perhaps if the story had been written from his point of view, I would have understood better. I occasionally have this complaint about third person point of view, so this could just be me.

    I did like Judith a lot. She's taking care of her nephew and her sister-in-law's father. How many people would take on the old man? But she does her best for them both. She doesn't have many options as a woman at this time, but she does what she needs to in order to survive. She becomes a silversmith. She establishes her own trade, and she learns to read. I was very impressed with her. As her fortunes rise and fall, she continues to adjust her plans accordingly. She's a survivor who manages to stay pretty true to herself. She's a character I would like to know in real life.

    I feel like I learned some eye-opening bits of history. I recommend this to anyone curious about this period of time. The author calls it cataclysmic and I would have to agree. These periods of violence and hatred are never easy to read about, but it is important that we remember them so we never travel those paths again.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted July 27, 2010

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    Posted August 2, 2011

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    Posted February 19, 2011

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