Friday, June 10, 2011

Jerusalem Maiden: Book Review

Jerusalem Maiden
By Talia Carner

Jerusalem Maiden, is about a young ultra orthodox Jewish girl, Esther Kaminsky. She is living in Jerusalem before the fall of the Ottoman Empire(this is  today known as  Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Israel, etc). Young Ultra orthodox girls, are known as Jerusalem Maidens.   They become of age at the age of 12 in the Jewish religion.  Once they hit this age it is their duty to marry young and have many male children to hasten the arrival of the messiah.

Esther, the main character of the story has a artistic hand. Her art teacher notices her passion. She encourages her to pursue her art.  But, the Jewish religion,
"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image"
She continues to draw without any one's knowledge. Her cousin Asher has a plan. Asher also wants to follow his art, music. He has a plan, marry me and we both can pursue our dreams and passions.

 But, then tragedy strikes her mother, she dies.  She believes it is her fault. G-d has punished her, because her mother dies. She puts down her art. Her father has arranged a marriage to a wealthy gentleman.  At the wedding, just like Jacob, in the bible she thinks she is marrying Asher. Until her veil is lifted.

She becomes a dutiful married  ultra orthodox woman, with many children and household chores. But, it is not as bad as the other women because she has married a wealthy man.  Most women in Jerusalem are poor, and suffer the hands of the Ottoman empire, and their brutal husbands. .  She does not understand the traditions and rituals of her husband. Because he doesn't follow them he isn't as strict with the traditions and rituals of the Jewish traditions.

Then opportunity knocks, she gets the chance to go on  a trip to France. Then everything changes. Does she pursue her dream and passion of art? Should she forget about her responsibilities at home in Jerusalem? Live as how she was raised a Orthodox woman? or as a gentile?

My Thoughts:  I did enjoy reading this book.  I think this is a good Jewish book read. I will most likely recommend this to our book club. It is a great jumping off point to talk about women(especially Orthodox vs. other jewish women).

It did bother me when something tragic or something that did go the way she planned. This was g-d's plan. The synagouge, I attended since I was a young girl, always taught us you make your choices don't blame it on g-d. You can always do something about it.

  I am a Jewish feminist. I don't believe religion and men should dictate and tell you what to do.  Me, myself I don't think g-d wants to restict women. I think he wants women to express themselves and do what you believe in, as long as it does not hurt anyone else.   I think the entire message of the book, BE TRUE TO YOURSELF!!! thats it...

When I was reading this book, I knew where this book was leading.  Talia Carner, believes in women's rights in other countries. She also has worked for women's magazines.

The novel, reminded me of a book, Loving Frank.  In both books the main character's left their children for their passion.  In loving Frank, it was a man. In Jerusalem Maiden, it was her art.

But, that was the point of the story. I am sure there are many people that do pick up, at times in their life and are reckless and not take responsibility.

I enjoyed reading what life was like in pre-Israel, the religion, the culture. I was aware of traditions and rituals of the Jewish religion in the middle east compared to the United States is different. 

 I found it interesting to read about life in Paris for the art community in the early 20th century.   This is very interesting to me because modern art was just starting to take off.   I enjoyed reading about the incident of Picasso.

Also around this time in history, literary authors were coming from the U.S. to France, such as  Hemingway, Fitzgerald and other famous authors.  

But, most of all I enjoyed reading about the character's, and the different people that lived in pre-Jerusalem. There is a love interest and there are explicit sexual scenes. But, I think this is necessary for the book.   

The book is separated in different sections of Esther's life, How the story intensified in different sections.  I don't think I have ever read a book like this before. Jerusalem Maiden held my interest and won't be forgotten for a long time.  I wanted to keep reading and not stop. I am sorry the book ended. I loved the surprise ended. 

This is not a beach read, and at times sad. The novel is based on the author's grandmothers life.  I don't know if this book was aimed at the Jewish community. But, because I am Jewish, I immediately connected and knew the traditions and rituals of Jewish girls, and women.

But, I think for the general public, a glossary of Jewish terms is needed.  Perhaps the author on her website can put a short glossary there.  But, there is another option, the book does change the type on words that do need translation. You need a computer handy, just google it.

Thank you Talia, for the review copy.


bermudaonion said...

I actually met Talia when I was at BEA and have been interested in this book ever soon. You've made me want to read it.

Sandra said...

Susan, thank you for visiting my blog and my review :)

I enjoyed reading your review and I completely agree with what you said about people blaming God when things go wrong.

Talia Carner said...

Dear Susan,

Thank you for a great review of JERUSALEM MAIDEN.

I would like to let you and your followers know that we've added a glossary on my website. When writing and editing the novel, I had taken great care to make sure that every foreign word was explained in the context (many are Arabic or French, not just Yiddish or Hebrew,)and compared it to books such as "The Kite Runner" that has many foreign words, I understand that sometimes a reference guide could be helpful. Here is the link:

Also, I should take this opportunity to let your readers know that we are continuing our book group promotions with amazing drawings--from a Collectors' Edition wine carrying the book cover as a label(!) to Holy Land packages for each member of the winning group. Please check

Thanks, and best regards,

Sverige said...

This is perhaps one of the most intriguing novels I have read in a long time. It is the coming of age story of a young, you guessed it, Jerusalem maiden. She's one of the daughters in an ultra-orthodox Jewish family who approaches her bat mitzvah in a most unorthodox way, by testing her faith's limits and questioning God.

RoyC234 said...

so what happens at the end does she follow her passion of art or her gods plan

RoyC234 said...

so does she follow her Passion or gods plan for her!

Susan Curtis said...

You must read the book to find out. I am not going to spoil it for my readers.

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