Spain in 1492 was about more than just Christopher Columbus, although he appears in this riveting novel. It was also about Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand's decision to expel Spain's entire population of Jews, although they had lived in and enriched the land for hundreds of years. Caught up in Gloria D. Miklowitz' masses of middle class and poor unfortunates who, rather than convert to Catholicism, streamed out to any country willing to take them, were the Conversos�Jews whose families had chosen conversion as much as 100 yeas ago to avoid a similar fate and had been rewarded with increased opportunities to amass education, wealth and prestige. Such a family was the Delgados�Papa, the Queen's physician; Mama, mistress of a gracious household and a staff of servants; Juan Pablo, nearly finished with his own medical education; and headstrong eleven-year-old Angelica. Into this household comes fourteen-year-old Maria, whose entire family has been wiped out by "the sickness." Maria is sent into service there by a priest, as a domestic and also as a spy for the Inquisition. Her mission? To report any signs that this noble family retains any Jewish customs or any sympathy for Jews, in which case they would be arrested, tortured, and burned at the stake. Maria wrestles continuously with loyalty to the church, which has rescued her from death on the streets, to the family that took her in and taught her to read and loved her, to her own survival. She falls in love with the handsome Juan Pablo and watches as he becomes betrothed to another. She spurns the attentions of another household servant but learns to appreciate his character and concern for her. And all the while, the church is exposedfor the sham it was�a relentless foe of anyone accused of not being a true Catholic, regardless of whether he or she might be a good person. This is a courageous book for Eerdmans, a "spiritual" publishing house heavy on religious books, to have tackled. Reward them by buying it and having a really good read for yourself and the young people in your life. 2001, Eerdmans,
When 14-year-old Maria is suddenly orphaned, she turns to the church for help. Fra Adolfo finds her employment as a maid to the daughter of Dr. Delgrado, physician to the royal court. The Delgrado family members are all Conversos, former Jews who long ago converted to Catholicism. But in the anti-Jewish Spain of 1492, even Conversos are suspect, and in return for finding her a position Fra Adolfo asks her to report on "any behavior that speaks of Judaizing" among the Delgrados. At first Maria is happy in her new household, busy trying to rein in her curious, impetuous young charge, Angelica, and falling in love with Angelica's older brother, Juan Pablo. But when she realizes that Juan Pablo does not have the same feelings for her, and that the family sees her as a servant and not a family member, Maria spitefully reveals to Fran Adolfo some of the ways in which the family has been sympathetic to Jews. When Dr. Delgrado is taken in for questioning, Maria is aghast at what she has done, and to atone she helps the family to escape from Spain. This dramatization of the cruelty of the Inquisition makes a strong case that "what matters is a man's goodness, not the religious rituals he practices." It's an affecting story in its own right, too, as Maria struggles with her relationship to the Delgrado family and the teachings of the church. Readers will get a good sense of life in the era, of the contrast between rich and poor, bigotry and kindness. KLIATT Codes: JRecommended for junior high school students. 2001, Eerdmans, 182p., $16.00. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; September 2001 (Vol. 35 No. 5)
The author, who dramatized the mass suicide of Jews in Masada:the Last Fortress (Eerdmans, 1998/VOYA February 1999), tackles the Spanish Inquisition in this historical novel about another unfortunate era in Jewish history. It is set in the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella, Columbus, and widespread religious intolerance. The Moors already had been ejected from Spain, and now the Jews were to follow. Even the Conversos, Jews who had become Christians, were being persecuted. The story is told through Maria, a homeless fourteen-year-old who is placed by the church into the wealthy Delgado household as a maid. She has been instructed by a priest to watch for signs that this Converso family secretly still holds to Jewish traditions. Anti-Semitism, public executions, and the confiscation of property are rampant. The cautious family embraces Maria, and she soon becomes fast friends with the impulsive young daughter and develops a crush on the handsome son. A trip to the coast reveals much about the family members and their plans. Maria, who sees possibly incriminating actions, is torn between her faith and her loyalty to the family. Her few ill-chosen words to the priest start the process that might bring about the family's downfall. As the inquisitors close in, Maria becomes instrumental in a plot to get the Delgados safely out of the country. The story is well told with emotion and excitement. Maria learns many of life's rough realities, and the outcome is not determined until the final page. The book is suited more for a female audience, given its examination of Maria's romantic feelings, but it puts a human face on a little-known episode in Jewish history for any reader. VOYA CODES:4Q3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses;Will appeal with pushing;Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8;Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9;Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Eerdmans, 182p, $16. Ages 11 to 18. Reviewer:Kevin BeachVOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-The horror of the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 is told through the voice of 14-year-old Maria Sanchez, a recently orphaned Catholic. Desperation forces her to seek the help of a priest, who finds her a position as a companion and servant to 11-year-old Angelica Delgado, whose family had converted from Judaism to Catholicism generations earlier. She is determined to fulfill her mission to spy on the Delgados and find out whether they are practicing Jews, in part because of her fear of what happens to people who protect them. Maria is a likable character in spite of her prejudices shaped by the period's rampant anti-Semitism. The juxtaposition of her report to the priest and Dr. Delgado's arrest and questioning makes her feel responsible for the potential destruction of the family who took her in and treated her with kindness and respect. Eventually Maria sees and understands the Inquisition's injustice, and she ultimately takes risks to try to save the family. The introduction of Maria's sea captain uncle and his courageous involvement in the Delgados' rescue is a bit contrived but does not seriously detract from an otherwise engrossing tale. Waldtraut Lewin's Freedom beyond the Sea (Delacorte, 2001) and Jacqueline Dembar Greene's Out of Many Waters (1988) and One Foot Ashore (1994, both Walker) take the point of view of young Jewish girls escaping from the Inquisition. Miklowitz's novel offers another view of that era's atrocities and their far-reaching ramifications.-Renee Steinberg, Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.