Witch of Cologne

( 17 )

Overview

A Time of Peril

The Inquisitor, Carlos Vicente Solitario, charges a young Jewish midwife, Ruth bas Elazar Saul, with heresy. Ruth may be the daughter of the city's chief rabbi, but this is no protection against the Inquisition's accusations.

A Quest for Justice

Detlef von Tennen, nobleman and canon, cousin to the Archbishop, suspects that something other than religion drives Solitario to persecute Ruth. ...

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Overview

A Time of Peril

The Inquisitor, Carlos Vicente Solitario, charges a young Jewish midwife, Ruth bas Elazar Saul, with heresy. Ruth may be the daughter of the city's chief rabbi, but this is no protection against the Inquisition's accusations.

A Quest for Justice

Detlef von Tennen, nobleman and canon, cousin to the Archbishop, suspects that something other than religion drives Solitario to persecute Ruth. Determined to ensure that justice is done, Detlef joins the investigation—and finds his passions fully aroused by Ruth's impressive intelligence and darkly exotic beauty.

Two Hearts' Desires

All her life, Ruth bas Elazar Saul has thirsted for knowledge, despite the price she paid by concealing her gender and being cast out of her father's house. Her faith sustains her through all, even the attentions of the Inquisition. Then, in the very heart of danger, God blesses her with the greatest love she has ever known.

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Editorial Reviews

Australian Bookseller & Publisher

"Like a tapestry, the setting is meticulously detailed [and] carefully woven. Learner has a rich historical palette to play with...."
Australian Jewish News

"If you like juicy historical novels with richly-drawn Jewish characters living interesting lives, then this is a novel you must read. "
Marie Claire (Australia)

"A rich historical novel with a contemporary feel."
Vogue (Australia)

"An historical romance that transcends its genre with meticulous attention to detail and wonderful visual sense."
Publishers Weekly
In a sensuous 17th-century saga set in German Catholic Cologne, Learner (Quiver) transports readers to a time when studying the ancient Kabbalah could prove deadly for a young Jewish midwife. Ruth bas Elazar Saul is the headstrong daughter of the chief rabbi of Deutz, Cologne's Jewish ghetto. She undertakes the forbidden course of mystical study, her Sephardic mother's legacy, before absconding to Amsterdam to escape an arranged marriage. There, Ruth acquires the contemporary midwifery skills she will combine with her sacred learning, and upon her return to Cologne she delivers wealthy burghers' babies using new lifesaving methods, earning a reputation for more than medical genius. Word of her skills travels quickly, and as the Spanish Inquisition stretches its tentacles to the Rhineland, Ruth is arrested for sorcery by the sadistic archbishop Carlos Vicente Solitario, whose persecution of her is fueled by a stymied youthful obsession with her mother. Ruth's keen intelligence and bravery in prison win her an ally, Canon Detlef von Tennen, who falls passionately in love with the "Jewess." The two marry, and Learner has readers rooting for the survival of their unlikely alliance. This steamy, riveting page-turner is also a paean to the triumph of a woman's spirit. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Imagine that you have the medical knowledge and skill to save lives; now imagine a time and a place in which just having those skills is punishable by death. Such is 17th-century world in which Ruth bas Elazar Saul lives. Ruth, daughter of the chief rabbi of Deutz, is a beautiful, headstrong, and gifted midwife who uses both science and Kabala to help women during childbirth. Accused of practicing witchcraft by Catholic inquisitor Carlos Solitario, Ruth must face her accusers and defend her belief in science and faith. Bawdy, romantic, and filled with well-developed characters, Learner's first novel (previously, she wrote Quiver: A Book of Erotic Tales) is evocative of Geraldine Brooks (Year of Wonders) and Diana Gabaldon's sensual touch (Outlander). Fans of historical fiction involving religion, science, and romance will savor every page of this impossible-to-put-down book set in Cologne and Amsterdam. With a reading group guide; recommended for all public libraries.-Marika Zemke, West Bloomfield Twp. P.L., MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
Praise for The Witch of Cologne:

"Fans of sweeping historical dramas will be enthralled by Ruth's story; remarkably, Learner writes with equal power about the intensity of Ruth's spirituality, the passion of her forbidden love for Detlef, and the horror of the torture she suffers at Solitario's hands. This is the kind of all-consuming novel that readers hate to see end."—Booklist

"Whisks readers away to 17th-century Cologne and Amsterdam."—The New York Times Magazine

"Learner enlightens readers on the intricacies of the Church, the Inquisition, and Jewish mysticism in a deep and moving novel."—Romantic Times BookClub Magazine

"In the nature of her belief that God is within us and her practice of a newer, more scientific kind of midwifery, Ruth is clearly well ahead of the time. Learner's writing is highly visual, consciously theatrical with dramatic scenes that are larger than life. The novel moves with extraordinary energy and pace."—The Age

"Brimming with imagination and larger-than-life characters. Casts a magical spell."—New Weekly

"Bawdy, romantic, and filled with well-developed characters, Learner's first novel is evocative of Geraldine Brooks and Diana Gabaldon's sensual touch. Fans of historical fiction involving religion, science, and romance will savor every page of this impossible-to-put-down book set in Cologne and Amsterdam."—Library Journal

"Sensuous . . . . Ruth bas Elazar Saul is arrested for sorcery by the sadistic archbishop Carlos Vicente Solitario. Ruth's keen intelligence and bravery in prison win her an ally, Canon Detlef von Tennen, who falls passionately in love with the 'Jewess.' This steamy, riveting page-turner is also a paean to the triumph of a woman's spirit." —Publishers Weekly

"A story of intricately woven facts and fiction with rich sensory details. Written with great intelligence and care, The Witch of Cologne is spellbinding, intriguing and touched with erotica."—Affaire de Coeur

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765314307
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 8/1/2005
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 496,548
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Originally from London, where she trained to be a sculptor, Tobsha Learner has lived in America and Australia. Learner has written for radio, television and film, and the theater. Her plays have been performed at theater festivals in the US, Australia, and Scotland, and she has produced three short films.

Learner's short story collection, Quiver, is an international success. The Witch of Cologne was a bestseller in Australia and has been released in Germany as well as in the United States. She is currently working on a new novel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
Rating Distribution

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(8)

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2007

    The Best

    I strongly disagree with the negative comments written regarding the author's writing style and historical detail. This is not a flippant read-- if you are interested in something light, this is not for you. The descriptions are rich, the characters multifaceted, the historical backdrop engrossing. I was a history major at an Ivy-- this book is pure joy for history lovers. You will also see Learner's playwright background influence her fiction writing--- you will feel like you are part of the scene. The book is incredibly enjoyable.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 14, 2010

    A Different Witch's Tale In "The Witch of Cologne"

    Politics, religion, intrigue, persecution, eroticism, fantasy, social change, anti-feminism and witchcraft almost bombard the reader in Tobsha Learner's, The Witch of Cologne. The novel opens with Ruth bas Elazar Saul, daughter of the city of Cologne's chief rabbi, sweating through the labor and breech delivery of the child of a prominent, important Catholic burgher's very young, third wife.

    That the burgher has promised to have Ruth's life should his wife or child die in the process of this difficult birth weighs not nearly as heavily on Ruth's mind as whether Ruth's training in Amsterdam has prepared her for dealing with this moment and saving one, or preferably both, lives.

    Learner's attention to detail is extraordinary, whether that detail be in the customs, dress, or politics inherent in 17th Century Cologne, Germany, or the place of females, in particular Jewish females, within Europe at that time. In one interview in Australia where Learner now lives most of the time, she explained the two years of historical research and time spent writing and checking the accuracy of facts and people in this work.

    Eroticism and sexually explicit descriptions seem at times to interfere with the plot rather than advance it; however, Learner manages through her prose and descriptive imagery to deeply involve the reader.

    Becoming engaged in the questions and decisions confronting Ruth, we also become less bothered by the eroticism because of Learner's ability to develop characters whose lives amid deep intrigue draw us into their world.
    Readers will be rewarded with a critical look at the development of a female mind in a time and place where women's role was seen by most of the powerful as that of either wife or concubine, bearer of children or illicit lover.

    Ruth, despite persecution, manages to remain true to herself and to her principles. In the midst of her search for medical knowledge and acceptance, Ruth is befriended by a powerful German who manages to offend all who know him in his efforts to save Ruth from execution.

    While the story is sometimes overwhelmed by details verging on salaciousness, the story does reward the reader willing to engage in the struggle to learn what drives Ruth to go against the will of those who know and love her and what drives the church inquisitor who is determined that Ruth must die. When we learn that Ruth's mother had spurned that inquisitor's overtures of love, we begin to have a glimmer of insight into the demons driving this angry, vengeful man and his hatred of Ruth.

    Learner paints a seemingly accurate picture of the world of Ruth's time, the anguish of love between a Jewish midwife and a Catholic canon, and a world beginning to work its way out of the Dark Ages into the light of the Reformation and Enlightenment and gives Ruth powerful mentors including Spinoza. Ruth takes full advantage of the knowledge these mentors provide.

    Learner's success as a novelist and playwright, though she trained as a sculptor in London, is further assured by this troubling yet entertaining novel, her third publication which has been optioned for a movie.

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  • Posted December 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Vivid, Engrossing, & Addictive

    I started reading this book because I finished a different book while staying w/ my sister and had nothing else to do. I ended up taking it with me when I left her house. The characters have amazing depth, the plot is intriguing and captivating, and the overall book is well-written. I found myself staying up late into the night thinking, "Just one more chapter!"
    I'm not a historian, so I don't know how accurate the information is, but the fact and fiction blended well together, weaving an intricate story that left me spellbound.

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  • Posted January 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Great Read

    I enjoyed this book. Yes, it is a complex story, but it doesn't take away from the story line. Once you start reading, you will find it difficult to put the book down. Ruth's spirit and strength of character makes this a great read. <BR/><BR/>Living in the 17th century, the main character is a young intelligent Jewish woman named Ruth. Ruth escapes an arranged marriage, lives as a man while studying, and eventually becomes a midwife. As a midwife she combines her medical skills and scared learning knowledge to provide her patients medical care. Even though she saves lives, this practice backfires when the leader of the Spanish Inquisition accuses her of being a witch. Carlos Vicente Solitario leads the prosecuting party. His hatred for Ruth is fueled by his obsession with Ruth's mother, and his memory of her rejection. During her time in prison, Ruth meets her soul mate Canon Detlef Von Tennen. Their unconventional union causes an outrage. The couple is forced to flee and fight for their beliefs and survival.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2007

    Weak Novel

    Needs a lot of editing. The author tries to cover to many topics without success. The story's historical setting is sketchy, the philosophical theories are boring, has morbid inquisition scenes, erotic relationships lacking sensuality and true romance, has characters that the book can do without and useless descriptions. Other than that, it only costs $7.99 so it was not a huge loss. I have read better novels with historical settings mingled with religion like 'The Ghost of Hannah Mendes' and 'Holly Fools'

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2007

    Great history lesson, plot a little disappointing

    I loved this book but it had its flaws. What I loved: the historical detail, the background of the melting pot that became modern Europe, the outline of the characters. It was a great idea, and the writer has great promise. The plot just didn't flow quite right and the relationships between the characters just fell a little flat. What I didn't like: the ending, the choppy plot, a lack of successfully written feeling between major characters. Ruth is rather one-dimensional - she doesn't make sense. I felt the author was trying for something along the lines of Philippa Gregory's 'WISEWOMAN' or 'WIDEACRE' but it didn't quite work out. The ending was just so disappointing and left me feeling like I'd wasted my time except for learning a lot about 1660's Cologne & Amsterdam.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2006

    Excellent read, and a history lesson

    I disagree with the other reviews here...the point of the book is that is gives us a history lesson as well as giving us an intriguing story to read. I found this a very accessible and entertaining novel.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2006

    Great, though complex, read!!

    This is a cross between 'The Red Tent' and 'The Outlander'. I loved it though some of the time period political climate could have been condensed. The politis were centeral to the plot but the point could have been made without the detailed history lesson in European-Catholic politics.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2005

    Too complex.

    Set in the seventeenth century, Ruth bas Elazer Saul is called the witch from Deutz. She is also the best midwife in the Rhineland. Ruth believes in Science and has studied the sacred text of Kabbalah, which women are banned from doing. ............................................. The Inquisitor, Carlos Vicente Solitario, charges Ruth with heresy. But Detlef von Tennen believes that those false charges are not the real reason Ruth is in such danger. Since Detlef is canon, and the cousin of the Archbishop, he joins the investigation. .................................................................... ...................... *** The plot and cast of character in this novel are too complex for me to write a thorough synopsis. If you do not already know something about seventeenth century history, you may very well find yourself lost and bewildered. ***

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    Posted September 19, 2009

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    Posted March 26, 2009

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    Posted March 26, 2009

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    Posted November 2, 2008

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    Posted October 26, 2008

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    Posted August 24, 2009

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    Posted January 27, 2009

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    Posted September 29, 2010

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