The Last Song

( 1 )

Overview

Living in Toledo, Spain, and raised a devout Catholic, Isabel cannot know her privileged life is about to unravel. The tolerant society she is used to has been turned upside down by the Spanish Inquisition and the Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada. Now even the walls have ears, and no one is immune to rumor, suspicion, a resentful servant, or a neighbor bearing a grudge. Still, Isabel feels safe from the burnings and torture. After all, her father is a respected physician in the ...

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The Last Song

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Overview

Living in Toledo, Spain, and raised a devout Catholic, Isabel cannot know her privileged life is about to unravel. The tolerant society she is used to has been turned upside down by the Spanish Inquisition and the Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada. Now even the walls have ears, and no one is immune to rumor, suspicion, a resentful servant, or a neighbor bearing a grudge. Still, Isabel feels safe from the burnings and torture. After all, her father is a respected physician in the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
     Then Isabel is betrothed to an abusive man she thoroughly dislikes, and for the first time, her doting parents are united against her. The reason becomes all too clear when they reveal to her their family's Jewish roots. By marrying their only child into a respected old Catholic family, they hope to protect her and dispel any suspicion that they have not always been devout Christians. Despite their efforts, Isabel's father is arrested and tortured by the Inquisition, and it's up to Isabel to concoct a desperate plan to save his life - and her own.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set during the turbulent Spanish Inquisition in the multicultural city of Toledo, this historical novel follows teenage Isabel as she uncovers long-held family secrets that both terrify and liberate. Although raised as a devout Catholic in a wealthy household with Muslim slaves, Isabel’s exposure to the torture and humiliation of heretics raises her awareness of her own family’s idiosyncrasies, such as Friday candle-lighting and the absence of pork from their menu. Isabel claims her hidden Jewish heritage just as the cultural climate becomes increasingly dangerous for Jews. Wiseman (Puppet) adeptly portrays the threatening atmosphere of fear and prejudice that compels citizens into distasteful choices: Isabel’s forced betrothal, for safety’s sake, to a Catholic man she despises; old friends refusing her desperate family’s entreaties for help once their heritage is known. Isabel’s rapid transformation from one who feels peace when addressing “our savior’s mother,” to secret student of Torah, combined with her unsurprising preference for a kind Jewish boy over her odious fiancé, lessen the story’s dramatic tension. However, the themes of exodus and perseverance despite adversity are uplifting. Ages 11–up. (Apr.)
VOYA - Sharon Blumberg
This is historical fiction novel is set in Toledo, Spain in the 1490s, surrounded by the backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition. The story involves Isabel, her parents, and those connected to the fabric of their lives in so many ways. Isabel's father is the entrusted physician of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella's court. Isabel and her family are devout Catholics...or are they? Isabel, a happy fifteen-year-old, is told she will marry Luis, but Luis is abusive, so why must she marry him? Isabel finds out later that her family carries a shocking secret, which is perhaps the reason she must marry Luis, to keep her safe. As the story unfolds, the Grand Inquisitor, from the Inquisition, threatens the safety of Isabel's family. Isabel finds happiness among new-found friends, some are even romantic. In doing this, she realizes she could risk torture and death for herself and her family, but she bravely presses on. The climax of the novel will set the reader in a spiraling whirlwind of intense emotions. This novel is a great read for young adults who enjoy historical fiction dealing with horrifying persecution and the will to survive. Reviewer: Sharon Blumberg
Children's Literature - Mary Thompson
It is the late 1400's in Toledo, Spain during the Spanish Inquisition. Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor, is intent on ridding the city of all but devout Christians, his main target are those practicing the Jewish faith. Isobel, whose father is a respected physician in the court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, thinks her family immune to the persecution afflicting the city. When she becomes betrothed to an arrogant and abusive man, she fears for her future. She befriends Yonah, the son of a Jewish silversmith, and learns the terrifying truth behind Torquemada's agenda. When her parents reveal to her their secret Jewish roots, the family becomes a target and her father is arrested and tortured. Desperate to save her father and family, Isobel seeks help from Yonah and the underground Jewish community. This story is well told with a strong, believable heroine. The plot is gripping and builds toward the end as Isobel learns whom to trust and about her heritage. The main theme of solidarity against adversity is expressed primarily through Isobel and Yonah's growing friendship. It is a different look at Jewish persecution because it is set during the Spanish Inquisition rather than the more familiar landscape of Hitler's Third Reich. Reviewer: Mary Thompson
School Library Journal
Gr 6–8—A story set during the Spanish Inquisition. Isabella, 14, and her family appear to be devout Catholics. But curiously, her mother does not eat pork, saying that it doesn't agree with her stomach. Blatant hints unfold, and readers learn that Isabella and her parents are New Christians, Jews who are forced to deny their own beliefs in order to survive. The teen is distraught when her father insists that she become betrothed to the son of an upstanding Old Christian family. She finds Luis disrespectful and harsh and doesn't understand why she must marry him. Soon she is told the truth about her family's secret religion. She meets Yonah, the son of a Jewish silversmith, and their conveniently instant friendship takes root. When her father is suddenly arrested and brought before the Inquisition, Isabella is determined to save him. She discovers a letter that alludes to the Jewish ancestry of Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor, and she and Yonah plan to use it to garner Don Enrique's freedom. Soon an edict ordering the expulsion of all Jews from Toledo is handed down, and Isabella's family must leave, freeing the teen to look forward to life with Yonah. Historical information is woven throughout the story, but it is heavy-handed and greatly interrupts the dramatic flow. Alice Hoffman's Incantation (Little, Brown, 2006) and Kathryn Lasky's Blood Secret (HarperCollins, 2004) are more successful in presenting the drama of this time through gripping, well-paced stories and multidimensional characters.—Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
The daughter of Queen Isabella's physician discovers that her parents don't practice the religion in which they raised her. Doña Isabel can't understand why her parents insist that she be betrothed to Luis, the cruel and arrogant son of her father's friend from the royal court. At last they explain that they are marranos, secretly living as Jews but seeking to protect her from the Inquisition by marrying her to a Christian. Shocked but not particularly given to soul searching, Isabel proceeds to meet an attractive Jewish boy, Yonah, who leads her into Toledo's ghetto for a secret Torah class and a seder. True to type, Luis turns out to be an informer who has her father arrested and tortured--but thanks to a fortuitous family letter proving that Torquemada himself had Jewish grandparents Isabel secures his release. With "Dayenu" on their lips, Isabel and her parents join Yonah's family and other expelled Jews headed for a new life in Morocco--their passage paid with jewelry smuggled by a loyal slave. A scant few of the Christians here are not rabidly hateful, but Wiseman is plainly less intent on posing thorny issues of faith or crafting complex characters than portraying Jewish courage and solidarity in adversity. Worthy aims are scuttled by avoidance of nuance. (Historical fiction. 11-13)
From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR The Last Song:

"With spies and informers on all sides, the story builds to a gripping climax ... readers will easily be caught by the young girl's personal heartbreak and conflict and will want to find out more." - Booklist

"...The climax of the novel will set the reader in a spiraling whirlwind of intense emotions. This novel is a great read for young adults who enjoy historical fiction dealing with horrifying persecution and the will to survive." - VOYA

"...a quickly paced, accessible introduction to a vicious era." - The Toronto Star

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780887769795
  • Publisher: Tundra
  • Publication date: 4/10/2012
  • Pages: 232
  • Age range: 10 - 11 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Hungarian-born novelist Eva Wiseman has received numerous prizes, including the McNally Robinson Books for Young People Award for My Canary Yellow Star. That novel and A Place Not Home were selected for the New York Public Library's annual Best Books for the Teen Age list. No One Must Know holds the Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award. Kanada was a finalist for the Governor General's Literary Award and was the winner of the prestigious Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction. Puppet not only won the McNally Robinson Award, but also the Canadian Jewish Book Award for Youth Literature. Eva Wiseman is the mother of two children and lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, with her husband.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Yes, people DO expect the Spanish Inquisition

    "...This book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, and I am really pleased that I've also received a copy of another book by the same author, because The Last Song is fantastic. I read it through in one night; it got pretty late, but I couldn't bring myself to put it down. I caught myself holding my breath through pages, anxious for Isabel and her family; I could not go to sleep without finding out what was going to happen..."

    For full review, please visit me at Here Be Bookwyrms on Blogger:

    herebebookwyrms dot blogspot dot com

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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