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Jerusalem Maiden: A Novel Paperback – May 31, 2011
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“A fascinating look at a little-known culture and time . . . Tuck JERUSALEM MAIDEN in your beach bag.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
“Talia Carner uses beautiful language, exquisite storytelling, and detailed research to transport the reader into the world of old Jerusalem . . . This is a book to savor and discuss.” (Jewish Book World)
“A welcome glimpse into a little-understood world.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Engaging . . . Carner renders Esther’s world with great authority and detail, revealing intimate familial rituals within the larger political and socioeconomic context.” (Publishers Weekly)
“JERUSALEM MAIDEN is a page-turning and thought-provoking novel. Extraordinary sensory detail vividly conjures another time and place; heroine Esther Kaminsky’s poignant struggle transcends time and place. The ultimate revelation here: for many women, if not most, 2011 is no different than 1911, but triumph is nonetheless possible.” (Binnie Kirshenbaum, author of The Scenic Route)
“Talia Carner is a skillful and heartfelt storyteller who takes the reader on journey of the senses, into a world long forgotten. Her story of a woman who struggles and seeks the light is universal and inspiring. Read this book and savor.” (Jennifer Lauck, author of the New York Times bestseller Blackbird and the newly released Found: A Memoir)
“JERUSALEM MAIDEN won me over from the first moment I began reading it...meticulously researched, and steeped in thorough knowledge, no less than deep understanding, of both this community and of the world of art in Paris at the beginning of the twentieth century... I could not put it down.” (Eva Etzioni-Halevy, author of The Triumph of Deborah, The Song of Hannah and The Garden of Ruth)
“JERUSALEM MAIDEN is a novel but the reader feels that she has entered living, lost history. Once engaged, you cannot put this book down . . . [H]eartbreakingly real.” (Phyllis Chesler, author of Women and Madness and Women of the Wall)
“[A]n exquisitely explosive journey . . . [JERUSALEM MAIDEN] immerses us in a provocative and astonishingly realized world filled with evil spirits, arranged marriages, prayer, poverty, and the pain of breaking free.” (Michelle Cameron, author of The Fruit of Her Hands)
“Exquisitely told...a moving and utterly captivating novel that I will be thinking about for a long, long time.” (Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of THE SILENT GIRL)
“Esther Kaminsky is a true heroine . . . The truly marvellous thing about JERUSALEM MAIDEN is how deeply Talia Carner is able to evoke Esther’s faith and the complexity of the choices she faces. A beautiful and timely novel.” (Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street and Eva Moves the Furniture)
“As bold and fragile as its main character, JERUSALEM MAIDEN is at heart a story of revolution. . . Captivates at every level, heart and mind.” (Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and Second Nature)
“Compelling ... vividly examines the grinding poverty and oppressive religious domination the heroine suffers in pre-World War I Mea Shearim, and then compares it with the seductive nonconformity she enjoys in the Parisian art world ten years later.” (Maggie Anton, author of Rashi's Daughters)
“[A] fascinating story of how a talented, artistic woman from a conservative faith must balance the responsibilities of her heritage against her passions for love and art ... [JERUSALEM MAIDEN] brings an elusive time and place to life and makes you question the strengths of your own beliefs.” (Vanitha Sankaran, author of Watermark)
“A tale spun by a natural storyteller...what is striking is the timelessness and dreamlike quality of her worlds. We are drawn into the saga of Esther kaminsky, the Jerusalem maiden, and stay under her story’s spell until the ambiguously happy end.” (Hassadah Magazine)
From the Back Cover
In the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, a young Orthodox Jewish woman in the holy city of Jerusalem is expected to marry and produce many sons to help hasten the Messiah's arrival. While the feisty Esther Kaminsky understands her obligations, her artistic talent inspires her to secretly explore worlds outside her religion, to dream of studying in Paris—and to believe that God has a special destiny for her. When tragedy strikes her family, Esther views it as a warning from an angry God and suppresses her desires in order to become an obedient "Jerusalem maiden."
But when a surprising opportunity forces itself on to her preordained path, Esther finds her beliefs clashing dangerously with the passions she has staved off her entire life—forcing her to confront the most difficult and damning question of all: To whom must she be true, God or herself?
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Top Customer Reviews
I also have a Grandmother of the same generation, about whom we always said "What if?", who chafed at the constricts that kept women in their place a hundred years ago, but who likewise embraced the traditions that gave meaning and structure to family life.
What interested me about Esther is how she, to an extent, embraces her chains. She loves the traditions of the Haredi, the prayers, the meals, keeping house, feeding the family. The reader sees she's actually lucky in the match her father made for her - but she doesn't see it that way, even though it was a peaceful marriage by the standards of the time. I was surprised at how sensible some of the rules were -- how many Catholic wives would have loved to be barred their husbands for a week a month! And the mikvah cleansing bath sounds almost like a spa.
I appreciated that this book turned out not to have the stupid wish fulfillment ending I find in so many women's novels. Nor was it a complete downer. It was realistic and resisted the current literary trend of forcing a politically correct sensibility on a grim time. Without anything heavy handed, the creation of the State of Israel is woven into the story, without being the story.
For me, this book was moving on many levels.
As much as I enjoyed reading the first part, as I continued to read the remaining 10 percent or so, I kept telling myself to stop reading, to just enjoy what I'd read and let it go at that. I didn't, and that last part just ruined it all for me. Damn!
I would also comment that near the end, the sex scenes were excessive for the style and type story, and had almost no place in the narrative. Thankfully there were few such scenes. Implied sex would have been more than enough.
The epilogue was good and fit the main storyline quite well. I just wish the author had used it in place of the last 10 percent or so of the story.
Where the book really shines is the characterization of Esther as the unlikely mother of three children. Her intense love for them mirrors the love that all mothers have. If I did not have my own child, I perhaps wouldn't have understood some of the anguish - the hard decisions - she had to undergo in this book. It also aptly describes the yearning of an artist for her medium, to express herself. How it cannot be suppressed without damaging the artist, herself. That is something perhaps only another artist can understand, but as a dancer, my dance is absolutely essential to me - since I found it, I found happiness also, and I cannot live without it. Thus Esther's ultimate pull to her art, above anything including love.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was not happy with how it ended though.