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The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

But I will tell you what I learned after I lost my sight, in the first days as I came to understand how much of the world was banned from me-for my hand would never again turn the pages of a book, nor be stained with the sweet, grave weight of ink, a thing I had loved since first memory….

Three stories, with centuries between them, come together in Rachel Kadish’s The Weight of Ink.
Helen Watt is struggling. On the verge of retirement, her health failing, she belongs to one of those rare breed of historians, who has devoted their lives to keeping history alive. The Richmond discovery, a cache of Jewish documents from the seventeenth century, will probably be the last set of aged documents that she will ever handle.
“History can change the world”, is what Aaron Levy, a Jewish-American graduate student, believes. For the moment though, he is struggling with his dissertation on the connections between members of Shakespeare’s circle and Inquisition-refugee Jews of Elizabethan London. His professional and personal life seems to have stagnated and a chance to assist Helen comes as a welcome distraction.

The documents, in Latin, Hebrew and Portuguese, are from the Interregnum period, with the first letter dated 1657. Scribed by the mysterious ‘Aleph’, Rabbi Moseh HaCoen Mendes’s letters to other rabbis across Europe pertain to the Inquisition and the position of Jews in Amsterdam, Florence and Elizabethan England. Hidden between the household accounts and letters are the musings of ‘Aleph’ and references to Spinoza’s “Deus sive Natura: God or Nature”. What might have been considered heresy in Aleph’s days, excites Helen and Aaron, leading them to discover the true identity of the mysterious scribe and also meet Ester Velasquez, an orphan who was taken in by the rabbi.
Ester’s past shades her present; “The girl has her mother’s beauty and must be overseen strictly —for with the mother’s blood so visible in her, the girl’s obedient ways might yet crack to reveal the same unruliness of spirit.” Labouring through her household chores, with no desire or passion, mending with her cramped stitches, Ester sometimes steals a moment’s reprieve to listen to the rabbi and his students in the room at the foot of the stair. A tide of words and reasoning lifts her and then she returns to the drudgery of her life, a life where girls cannot pursue their love for words.

A beautifully interwoven tale of struggle, loss, love and redemption.
What shines through is the reverence for the written word.
Realistic and empathic characterisation, balanced with well-researched historical references, makes this novel a deeply emotional and pleasurable read.

About artikaaurorabakshi

Artika Aurora Bakshi Artika Aurora Bakshi is the author of two well-acclaimed children’s books,My Little Sikh Handbook, My Little Sikh Handbook 2: Ardas, and an anthology of stories, Hold On To Me. Her first story, set in Amritsar, during the pre-Partition period, All She Had Left, was published on Story Mirror. She co-manages thegoodbookcorner.com, a manuscript help and book review site. Her passion for reading has led her to helping other writers with their manuscripts. She comes from a family of lawyers and has a master’s degree in International Banking & Finance. Currently based in Sri Lanka, she teaches Commerce and History on a part-time basis at an international school and enjoys being part of the literary scene in Sri Lanka. A regular at the Galle Literary Festival and other literary events in Sri Lanka, Artika’s articles and book reviews have featured in the Daily Mirror, Daily News, The Ceylon Chronicle, and various blogs, such as, talkingcranes.com, sikhchic.com, sikhnet.com. She is actively involved with SAARC Women’s Association of Sri Lanka and was President of the Association in 2016. An avid reader, Artika runs an online book club with a membership base of over 600 members. Her quotes are featured under soul.nightingale on Instagram and on Soul Nightingale by Artika Aurora Bakshi on Facebook. Artika is also working on her third children’s book in the My Little Sikh Handbook series and a second anthology of stories for adults. You can reach Artika at bakshiartika@gmail.com .

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This entry was posted on August 25, 2017 by in Book Reviews, Contemporary, Fiction, Historical and tagged , .
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