A family's encounter with the Spanish Inquisition is related in a second novel (after Cantora, 1993, not reviewed) that...



A family's encounter with the Spanish Inquisition is related in a second novel (after Cantora, 1993, not reviewed) that never really succeeds in evoking all the heart-wrenching responses the subject invites. Apparently based on memoirs of L¢pez-Medina's own mixed-faith family, the narrative alternates between sections describing how that family was established in the early 1400s and journal entries for the years 1492-97 by Meschianza, the Lisbon-based great-granddaughter of the founders. Despite the author's tragic theme, the high-gloss scenes here more resemble idealized period settings than historical reality, and jarring anachronisms don't help (tulips at a wedding are said to come from Holland, a country that did not then exist--the bulb itself introduced there only in the mid-1500s). When 50ish Moslem General Amahl Cozar returns to his castle near Cadiz, in 1448, he finds it abandoned: The Spanish have seized his men-at-arms and horses to help fight their wars. A chance but significant encounter leads to Amahl meeting the Jewish merchant and estate-owner Naphtali and his beautiful daughter Bianca. Bianca is brave, stubborn, and excellent at men's work--she breeds and cares for pedigree horses and helps Jews escape from cities where the Inquisition is already active. She eventually accepts Amahl's marriage proposal, and the two settle in the now restored Cozar castle to begin their dynasty. They have three children. Bianca and eldest son Rafael will die in a fire, but daughter Justina goes on to bear Meschianza and son Jaime. As the persecution of Jews increases, Jaime converts, marries Christian Pisa, and is able to keep the family estate, though the rest of the family must flee. Meanwhile, Meschianza describes how she too finally has to depart with her Christian lover Raul for an unknown refuge. Worthy intentions undercut by lackluster people and a cluttered story that sounds more now than then.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1997


Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997

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