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INCANTATION by Alice Hoffman


by Alice Hoffman

Age Range: 12 - 14

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-316-01019-7
Publisher: Little, Brown

Echoes of the Holocaust reverberate through this 16th-century tale of a young Spanish woman who discovers through love, betrayal and tragedy that her family is secretly Jewish. Estrella has never questioned why she’s sometimes called “Esther” at home, why her family lights candles before dinner on Friday and other habits—until she reads a poster that describes the practices of Jews, who hide beneath a veil of Christianity to protect themselves. Meanwhile, a growing attachment with Andres, a neighbor, poisons her relationship with her closest friend Catalina, to whom he’s been promised. In revenge, Catalina goes to the authorities, setting in motion a chain of arrests, mock trials and at last, a huge auto-da-fé that leaves only Estrella and her grandmother alive. Having witnessed it all, Estrella washes off the ashes and sets out for the New World, vowing not to let herself or her descendants forget. More poet than historian, Hoffman focuses less on period detail than on her protagonist’s inner life and voice; her tale therefore has a timeless quality, though because she leaves the background vague, and also gives Estrella’s family elders mystical powers, it’s not her most convincing outing. (Fiction. 12-14)