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Rav Hisda's Daughter, Book I: Apprentice: A Novel of Love, the Talmud, and Sorcery Paperback – July 31, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 92 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

This book is a truly wonderful endeavor to bring the Talmud, the second Jewish Scripture, particularly its Babylonian branch, to life for the reader and makes it possible to come to terms with one serious and holistic attempt to interpret how it presents itself. If you are intrigued by what Judaism is, how it presents itself, and how it came to be what it is today; and if, at the same time, you are a fan of Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice, this is the book for you. There is little doubt that if you are patient enough you will discover behind the unpronounceable Persian names and exotic setting on the Euphrates River both Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.
--- Tal Ilan, Professor of Jewish Studies at the Freie Universitaet Berlin is the editor of A Feminist Talmud Commentary. -


Maggie Anton has written an imaginative and meticulously researched story, compelling and rich both intellectually and emotionally.
-- Rachel Adler, Professor of Jewish Religious Thought and Feminist Studies,, HUC-JIR, Los Angeles, is the author of Engendering Judaism: An Inclusive Theology and Ethics. 

A lushly detailed look into a fascinatingly unknown time and culture--a tale of Talmud, sorcery, and a most engaging heroine!
-- Diana Gabaldon, author of the bestselling Outlander series 


This is more than a touching story of love and loss, a journey of an independent-minded woman or a tale of magic and witchcraft. Anton's imagination takes you into the lives of our Talmudic Sages-- as young students and venerated teachers, shy fiancés and strong husbands, devoted sons and caring fathers. She also fills in the blank spaces for us - the rich and important lives of women and girls of those times. Researching her material well, Anton recreates Talmudic times, both the day to day ordinary existence and life fraught with danger and destruction, yet surviving to bring us Jewish law and wisdom unto this very day.
--- Blu Greenberg, founding president of JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, is the author of On Women and Judaism: A View from Tradition


“Anton, the author of the acclaimed “Rashi’s Daughters” trilogy, has penned her best book to date. Using her extensive knowledge of the Talmud and other historical Jewish writings, she immersed herself in the tractates to uncover a marvelous heroine for this historical novel… Complex discussions of Jewish law and tradition as well as detailed description of the culture and customs of the times enhance truly wonderful storytelling. VERDICT This absorbing novel should be on everyone’s historical fiction reading list." —Library Journal (starred review)
“Rav Hisda’s Daughter provides a wealth of historical detail about Jewish life in Babylon and Israel in the 3rd century CE. It depicts the daily life and coming of age of a prominent rabbi’s daughter rather than propelling its reader through a traditional arc of action with a crisis and resolution. Its interest lies in its portrayal of the sorcery, incantations, and women’s customs in this exotic, faraway period of time and place, sometimes against the backdrop of war.”  —Historical Novel Society

Praise for the Rashi's Daughters trilogy:

“Anton delivers a tour de force . . . [Readers] will fly through the pages and come away wishing for more.” –Library Journal (starred review)


“A compelling combination of drama, suspense, and romance.” –Lilith magazine


 

From the Back Cover

2012 National Jewish Book Award fiction finalist
Library Journal choice for Best Historical Fiction of 2012
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Product Details

  • Series: Rav Hisda's Daughter (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; 1 Original edition (July 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452298091
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452298095
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #260,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a child my family thought that Workmans'Circle school would be better for me than Hebrew school. So I learned to speak, read and write Yiddish, and learned Jewish History from the perspective of those who didn't believe in G-d. Each of Maggie's novels add to my knowledge of Judaism and Jewish History. But Rav Hisda's Daughter took a turn I never expected, exploring the world of Sorcery in Judaism. Based upon the true story of Rav Hisda's Daughter, the book reveals a world previously unknown to me. As always, it is masterfully written, and crammed with amazing research. I don't want to give away the story so it is best to simply say that if you love a good story about love, and if you want to learn more about Jewish History, do read this exceptional book!
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Format: Paperback
This is a good story, heavily laden with detail: The fabrics, the food and the customs of Babylonian Jewish families and Torah interpretations of each and every thing in their lives. This is a story of the family and students of Rav Hisda, a rabbi, who live a life where social customs are completely influenced by religious text -- especially when it comes to marriage and living arrangements. This means that, chapter after chapter, we see the students debating fine points of Mishna and Baraita with the rabbi. Sometimes, this illuminates their personalities and advances the plot -- other times it is more like textbook on the rabbinical dialectic.

This does drag the story down, but sticking with it, I found it worth while. Many characters speak more like an encyclopedia than with the voices of living people -- and, as colorful as this is, many scenes convey nothing beyond the information they impart (how beer is brewed, how flax is woven, which dates and hours are auspicious for writing amulets). But over the years of her life, the heroine Dada slowly as a thoughtful and self-determined young woman who comes of age in a fascinating time in history.

For readers curious about this time and place in history, this book would indeed be a great way to learn a lot. For even greater fiction about (much later) Jewish history I strongly recommend Lilian Natel's gorgeous and resonant novel The River Midnight- another amazingly detailed book that works on every level.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rav Hisda's Daughter, by Maggie Anton, is groundbreaking just as Johebed was in the trilogy of Rashi's Daughters. Her grasp of social history of the 3rd and 4th century Babylonian is extraordinary. Social history is difficult to find, much less that of medieval and pre-medieval ages. For that reason alone, this book is an eye-opener for a historian as well as a layperson.

Her knowledge of the subject matter, the Babylonian Talmud is also extraordinary in that she presents arcane ideas in an understandable format.

If Joheved was a masterpiece, Rav Hisda's Daughter is a tour de force.

Arthur L. Finkle
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I highly recommend this book for Jews and non-Jews, those familiar with the Talmud and those who are not, those interested in a well-written drama or prefer history, and those who want to learn about the ancient culture of Jews, Zoroastrians, and Christians at the end of the third century in Babylon and Israel. Maggie Anton proved her ability to capture the life of one of Judaism's greatest Bible and Talmud commentators in her Rashi's Daughters trilogy. He lived in France in the eleventh century. Now she does it again as she reveals the life of one of Judaism's preeminent Talmudic sages and his family.

Rav Hisda's opinions on Jewish law are mentioned frequently in the Talmud, which also relate some facts about his life. Maggie Anton's novel is based on this information, which she uses faithfully. While there are only few details about his daughter in the Talmud, not even her name, one of the principle episodes in the book about her is there. Rav Hisda asked her who of two of his students she wanted to marry, and although Jewish law forbids a woman to be married to two men, she answers "Both of them."

One of these two men would grow up to be one of the most famous Babylonian rabbis mentioned in the Talmud, the man known as Rava. People familiar with the Talmud will enjoy how she portrays him, as will those who previously never heard of the man.

Anton describes the unusual culture in the Jewish houses of learning in a dramatic fashion. She also lets us see the ancient cultures of Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians, including their beliefs in the detrimental effects of the "evil eye," which caused them to be very careful how they acted. They were also convinced that enchantments work, a superstitious belief that many people still retain in various forms today.
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Format: Paperback
I was blessed to be able to read this prior to publication. It was quite a page turner and I learned a lot about the time period while I was at it. Maggie's books get better with each one! I can't wait for the next book to find out what happens next.
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As part of Library Things's Early Reviewers network, I was given a copy of Maggie Anton's new novel, Rav Hisda's Daughter. As I was with her first two novels (in the Rashi's Daughters series), I am very glad that the's building in a sequel!

Rav Hisda's daughter is a historical-fiction piece, similar (in concept) to Anita Diamond's The Red Tent and Anton's own earlier works Rashi's Daughters. As a lover of midrash (Jewish storytelling based on Torah or other historical writings) as well as general fiction, I doubly love these pieces. I appreciate the clear wealth of research that had to go into developing not only the characters but all the details - from what a woman calls herself while menstruating to the process of creating date beer and the language that was used to craft amulets to protect from specific demons for bathhouses! I'm not a historian, so I can't speak to accuracy, but the feel is spot-on.

We follow the young adulthood of Hisdadukh - Rav Hisda's daughter (would love a pronunciation key on her name - I have been saying "hees-DAH-duke" in my head, but I don't know if that's accurate!) - as she matures from an older child (around 11) to a young wife. It doesn't give away more than the first page (written from Hisdadukh as sort of a memoir overview) to say that she looses her husband suddenly and has to decide how to move forward in her life. Even with that framing in mind, I was consistently unsure of where the story was going next and was regularly, and pleasantly, surprised to see it going down a path I had not anticipated.

Anton's writing is clear and quick-paced.
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