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Hunting Midnight Paperback – April 27, 2004

7 customer reviews
Book 2 of 4 in the Sephardic Cycle Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Acts of cruelty and bigotry and a shocking betrayal propel thiscolorful if overstuffed historical novel by Zimler (The Last Kabbalistof Lisbon), set in 18th- and 19th-century Portugal. John Zarco Stewartis the son of a Scotsman and, through his mother, is descended fromconverted Jews called Marranos who have kept their identity a secretsince the Spanish Inquisition. John grows up in the city of Portounaware of his true heritage until a necromancer curses him when he isnine. In the same year, his best friend drowns before his eyes, and heis only comforted when his father returns from a trip to Africa with aBushman called Midnight, a healer and freed slave who teaches Johnmany things as he grows into manhood. But Midnight, too, meets aviolent end, and when John is 16, Napoleon's armies invade Portugaland John's father is killed defending Porto. Years after the war, Johndiscovers that his father, who he believed was a hero, had committedan unthinkable act of treachery. In attempting to atone for hisfather's misdeed, John travels from Portugal to England thenantebellum America. Zimler packs his tale with exotic detail,describing Porto's bird markets, plantation life in South Carolina andthe lives of Jews in hiding. Though his prose style is somewhat stiffas he attempts to echo 1800s speech patterns (" `Close your goddamnedsnout and run, you little mole!' ") and many of the events in thestory are melodramatic, the narrative has a vintage flavor thatbecomes absorbing.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Zimler, author of the unforgettable Last Kabbalist of Lisbon (1998), about the fourteenth-century massacre of Jews in Portugal, tackles an even more ambitious historical epic this time, beginning in Portugal in the eighteenth century and moving, over the next 25 years, to London, South Carolina, and New York. There are really two novels here, both compelling on their own but awkwardly connected. The first is the story of John Marco Stewart's coming-of-age in Portugal, as he learns of his Jewish heritage (he's related to the hero of Last Kabbalist) and must endure another wave of Christian persecution. The second, detailing Stewart's search for his childhood friend, an African Bushman called Midnight who is sold into slavery, becomes a Roots- like look at the horrors of plantation life in South Carolina. Zimler might have been better off saving the slavery story for its own book, but he remains a superbly talented historical novelist, capable of combining fascinating, broad-canvas glimpses of history with the most intimate portraits of the human heart in turmoil. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Reprint edition (April 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385336470
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385336475
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #940,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Zimler was born in Roslyn Heights, a suburb of New York, in 1956. After earning a bachelor's degree in comparative religion from Duke University (1977) and a master's degree in journalism from Stanford University (1982), he worked for eight years as a journalist, mainly in the San Francisco Bay area. In 1990, he moved to Porto, Portugal, where he taught journalism for sixteen years, first at the College of Journalism and later at the University of Porto. Richard has published eight novels over the last 15 years. In chronological order, they are: The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, Unholy Ghosts, The Angelic Darkness, Hunting Midnight, Guardian of the Dawn, The Search for Sana, The Seventh Gate and The Warsaw Anagrams. His novels have appeared on bestseller lists in 12 different countries, including the USA, Great Britain, Portugal, Brazil, Italy, and Australia. Richard has won numerous prizes for his work, including the Prix Alberto Benveniste in 2009, for Guardian of the Dawn (for Jewish-themed fiction), and the 1998 Herodotus Award, for The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon (Best First Historical Novel). His latest novel, The Warsaw Anagrams, was chosen as 2010 Book of the Year in Portugal, by both the country's main literary monthly (LER) and high school teachers and students. Hunting Midnight, The Search for Sana and The Seventh Gate have all been nominated for the International IMPAC Literary Award, the richest prize in the English-speaking world. He was also granted a 1994 U.S. National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Fiction. The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, Hunting Midnight, Guardian of the Dawn and The Seventh Gate form the "Sephardic Cycle," a group of inter-connected - but fully independent - novels about different branches and generations of a Portuguese Jewish family. in 2010, a short film he based on one of his short stories won the Best Drama award at the New York Downtown Short Film Festival. It is entitled The Slow Mirror. Richard also writes reviews for the L.A. Times. When he's not writing, he enjoys gardening at his weekend house in the north of Portugal.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Aron Primack on September 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Richard Zimler's second novel, Hunting Midnight, casts as its central character a descendant of the title character in his first novel, The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon. The new work is set in Porto, Portugal, in the early 19th century, 300 years after the first novel.
Because it contains a wide range of ingredients - a South African Bushman, a Scottish winegrower in Portugal, South Carolina slaves, child abuse, characters' artistic pursuits, Beethoven, reverence for nature - it is perhaps more universal in its appeal than the first book.
But it also has its Jewish (and Kulanu) components, such as the narrator's discovery that he is descended from Jews, and the occurrence of an anti-Jewish pogrom in Porto.
The author writes skillfully as the voice of the young Scottish-Portuguese half-Jew as well as that of a slave girl in the American South. He also imparts a seemingly deep knowledge of Bushman belief and culture, in addition to snatches of Portuguese and Hebrew, and departures into Jewish philosophy and Scottish song and literature. The story-telling style is tight, with straightforward prose that builds up tension and suspense effectively.
These disparate elements might seem a bit too much, but it all works well together, and Hunting Midnight is a great read of almost-epic proportions. While The Last Kabbalist was also a mesmerizing, suspenseful experience, it was more parochial. The first novel was a best-seller in Portugal and did well internationally. The second novel, being truly universal, may well do even better.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Solomon, Author on July 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Zimler's book is a triumph of modern fiction: an absolutely gripping narrative of love and loss set against a backdrop of fantastic historic drama. Zimler rises to the incredible quality of his bestselling The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon. The characters are rich and fully realized, and their conflicts are vital and real. They grow throughout the book, so that by the end you feel a real intimacy with them. The period setting is elegantly realized; you feel as though you are living in these far-away times, going to the bird market, observing the early forms of racism, encountering the ravages of the Inquisition. This is a story of family too, and the close bonds of the central characters are extremely vivid. I loved this book. Read it at once.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
As an avid reader who has been ritually disappointed by the so-called "literary" sensations of the past year, it is a true joy to find a book with a heart and soul, written by an author at the top of his game.This mesmerizing, beautifully written tale of the friendship between a freed African slave and a bereaved child will make you weep on every page, such is the realism of emotion Zimler packs into each page. He is distinctly not an author given to mawkish sentimentality. This is the unputdownable book of the year that thoroughly deserves a wider audience. It is, as the flap copy suggests, an out-and-out masterpiece.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on July 2, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In 1800 Porto, Portugal, the memories of the Spanish Inquisition linger as Jews hide their faith to avoid a repeat of their previous fate. In this environs nine-year-old John Zarco Stewart becomes a friend with slightly older street person Daniel. John soon learns that his family is Jewish, which is why they are shunned by much of the townsfolk and fail to practice in their home. Violeta joins the two boys, but the guys one day find marks on her body as if somone battered her. She insists she fell, but her two pals think her odious uncle assaulted her.
When Daniel drowns and Violeta's family removes her from Porto, John feels bored and guilty because he thinks he caused misfortune for his two only pals until his papa brings home a new companion, African Bushman Midnight, who turns into a friend and mentor. As John becomes an adult, he marries, but a secret from the past propels him to journey to America where he starts a new adventure with a black woman.
HUNTING MIDNIGHT is a biographical fiction that consists of two stories. The first part of the book centers on the coming of age of the narrator. This segment is insightful as it provides depth to life on the Iberian peninsular during the Napoleonic Era, but also moves forward slowly as the misadventures seem somewhat trivial. The latter half of the book focuses on adventures of John the adult in the Americas. This is quite exciting as John adapts to a strange new world. Richard Zimmler returns his audience to Portugal three centuries after his delightful THE LAST KABBALIST OF LISBON with a strong historical tale.
Harriet Klausner
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