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Rav Hisda's Daughter, Book I: Apprentice: A Novel of Love, the Talmud, and Sorcery Paperback – July 31, 2012
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Maggie Anton has written an imaginative and meticulously researched story, compelling and rich both intellectually and emotionally.
A lushly detailed look into a fascinatingly unknown time and culture--a tale of Talmud, sorcery, and a most engaging heroine!
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.
“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
Top Customer Reviews
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.
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
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Enjoyed the book and loved the historic references to law and fanciful magicPublished 11 months ago by Ellen Ohio
This book gives a really vivid living insight into the customs & family life of the characters & locations of the Jewish early times.Published 12 months ago by Thelma Patricia
Although you do not have to be a jewish woman to enjoy this book, it definitely helps! This story is the historical fictional account of Rabbi Hisda's daughter, told from a woman's... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Joyce
The first half of the book to me was very slow. Unfortunately, I read The Enchantress first when I should have read Rav Hisda's daughter first. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Audrey Worman
I loved reading the book. It took me to the time when the Talmud was put together. It was very enlightingPublished 13 months ago by ruben lisker
A remarkable example of what a skilled author can do with a small universe of surviving facts and a powerful capacity for informed imagining. Read morePublished 14 months ago by K. Roberts
Like Anton's novels about Rashi's daughters, "Rav Hisda's Daughter" shows a woman in a man's world of Judaism, this time from the Talmud, with detail and remarkable... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Lynn Saul