By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan - BOOK REVIEW and GIVEAWAY {GIVEAWAY CLOSED}

9/10/2010 11:19:00 PM

Title:  By Fire, By Water
Author:  Mitchell James Kaplan
Publisher:  OtherPress
Publish Date:  May, 2010
Trade Paperback, 320 pages
ISBN: 978-1-59051-352-1 (1-59051-352-5)

From the publisher's website:

Luis de Santángel, chancellor to the court and longtime friend of the lusty King Ferdinand, has had enough of the Spanish Inquisition. As the power of Inquisitor General Tomás de Torquemada grows, so does the brutality of the Spanish church and the suspicion and paranoia it inspires. When a dear friend’s demise brings the violence close to home, Santángel is enraged and takes retribution into his own hands.  But he is from a family of conversos, and his Jewish heritage makes him an easy target. As Santángel witnesses the horrific persecution of his loved ones, he begins slowly to reconnect with the Jewish faith his family left behind. Feeding his curiosity about his past is his growing love for Judith Migdal, a clever and beautiful Jewish woman navigating the mounting tensions in Granada. While he struggles to decide what his reputation is worth and what he can sacrifice, one man offers him a chance he thought he’d lost…the chance to hope for a better world. Christopher Columbus has plans to discover a route to paradise, and only Luis de Santángel can help him.

   Within the dramatic story lies a subtle, insightful examination of the crisis of faith at the heart of the Spanish Inquisition. Irresolvable conflict rages within the conversos in
By Fire, By Water, torn between the religion they left behind and the conversion meant to ensure their safety. In this story of love, God, faith, and torture, fifteenth-century Spain comes to dazzling, engrossing life.

My Take:  I'm a huge fan of historical fiction. I love reading about other cultures, other times, and learning more about periods that I may only have a fleeting knowledge of.

This book is a gem; meticulously researched, but written in such a fashion that you are drawn in almost from the first.

Conversos were Jewish people who converted to Christianity; however, they were all looked at with suspicion by those aligned with the Spanish Inquisition.  It was basically a crime to have any Jewish artifacts if you called yourself Christian, and being overly familiar with those of the Jewish faith was also a reason for suspicion.  You could be tortured until you confessed, or tortured until you refused to confess and died in your squalid cell.

Luis de Santangel, in spite of being a converso, was the chancellor of Aragon and a close confederate of King Ferdinand.  This story is about events surrounding Luis and the larger events that he played a part in.  We see a man troubled by the inequities of events, who, as part of the power structure, is facing a larger struggle of conscience.  He loses a close friend in a horrible fashion, and exacts his revenge in an equally unexpected fashion.  He then suffers through additional losses which would have crippled a lesser man.  Thsi is not a 'feel good' book, but then how can we feel good when reading about such horrid happenings, especially in the name of God?  It IS, however, an "oh, gosh, I really really need to get some sleep instead of reading this" type of book!

Judith is a wonderful character, and we feel as though we are walking beside her in her struggles to get by in a world where Jewish people are second-class citizens at best.  Most telling is a phrase I read spoken by a Jewish character:  "I heard that they treat their Jews well" in speaking of a Muslim city.

With the current strife between Israel and many of those in the Muslim community, it was eye-opening to me to read about a period where Muslims sheltered Jews and protected them (but only to an extent, as we find out).

There are wonderful side characters, and supposed Christians who commit unspeakable acts, and tragedy, and love, and love lost, and .. well, everything that makes a book worth reading.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction, to anyone who loves to read about historical events, to anyone who loves a family story, a love story, a story of conflict .. I think that covers about all of us.

Oh!  and did I mention?  This is a DEBUT novel - and a glorious one.  I am so thankful that people with wonderful talents like to share!

Read an Excerpt

About the Author

QUOTES:

He ordered his soldiers to burn and despoil all the towns and fields within fifty miles.  For the Christian fighters, the battle of Granada was a great free-for-all.  Gold, silk, spices, precious objects, beautiful women, handsome Moors-they seized them, spent them, discarded them, and impaled them at whim.  


Rumors swept through the quarter like fire:  the Jews would be more strictly confined to their district, they would not be allowed to trade with Christians, they would be required to wear identifying badges.  Such measures had already been enforced in Madrid and Toledo.


Felipe's confession, according to the ecclesiastical authorities, had been incomplete.  To make the point, a half-dozen constables of the Santa Hermandad dragged his corpse into the Plaza de la Seo, where, before Sunday Mass and the entire city, they hacked it to pieces and fed it to dogs.

Book Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

BUY IT:  From the publisher's website, from Amazon, and at other on and offline booksellers.

WIN IT:  UPDATE:  The author was kind enough to send aNOTHER book to me just for this giveaway, along with a lovely signed bookplate!  Thank YOU, Mitchell!

The giveaway will still be international and I will pay for shipping :)

I loved this book so much that, even though I'm not willing to give up my own copy (it's going on my keeper shelf) - I still wanted more exposure and to give someone else the pleasure of reading it.  SO ... I'm offering to purchase a copy for the winner and have it shipped to you.  If you are international, check this page to see if Book Depository ships to you.  If your country is listed, you are eligible to enter the giveaway.

MANDATORY ENTRY:  This is an easy one.  What is your favorite historical fiction novel?  Leave the title and the author; I'm always adding to my TBR list!

EXTRA ENTRIES (please leave a separate comment for each; if you already follow or subscribe prior to this post, leave 2 comments for each):

1. Follow Knitting and Sundries publicly on Google Friend Connect and/or Twitter

2. Subscribe via RSS and/or newsletter to Knitting and Sundries (buttons to the right) - I hate clutter in my email box, so my emails are just the headlines of whatever posts I put up that day - if you see one you like, you can click on it to read the full post - 1 entry for each you do

3.  Spread the word! Tweet (maximum of ONCE daily - include @jewelknits and @otherpress
in the tweet so that I see it. To make it easy, you can use the "Share" button at the bottom of this post!  Blog about - 2 entries/comments.  Sidebar link to giveaway - 1 entry/comment (leave the URL)

4.  Enter another one of my giveaways that are current at the time you post your entry comment. You can get one extra entry for each giveaway that you enter.


ALL ENTRIES:  Please leave your email in your comments: Like this: imacrazedmommy at whydidihavekids dot com OR like this imacrazedmommy(at)whydidihavekids(dot)com to avoid the spam bots.  If I can't reach you, you can't win!

In addition, if you follow, tweet, etc., please leave the name or email address you follow/tweet/subscribe under.

Eligibility: International, 18 and older. 

End date:  September 24, 2010 at 11:59 PM EST

I will pick the winner(s) using Random.org.  I will post the winner(s) on the site AND send an email to the email address used to enter.  The winner will then have 72 hours to reply with their mailing information; otherwise, a new winner will be picked.  The email will be easy to spot; the subject line will begin "You WON on Knitting and Sundries"

CymLowell

Disclosure:  I received a complimentary copy of this title from the author to objectively review.  No other form of compensation was received for this post, and I was not required to post a positive review.

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50 comments

  1. My alltime favorite genre is historical fiction! It is really hard to pick a favorite, but if I had to I would pick one of two: The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory or The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir.
    Thanks!
    candc320@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am a GFC follower (Colleen Turner).
    candc320@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am an email subscriber.
    candc320@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. I like The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara.

    headlessfowl at jteers dot net

    ReplyDelete
  5. I am an old GFC follower.

    headlessfowl at jteers dot net

    ReplyDelete
  6. I am an old GFC follower.

    headlessfowl at jteers dot net

    ReplyDelete
  7. I came via my RSS reader. :)

    headlessfowl at jteers dot net

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi Julie, this is not an entry for the giveaway. I just wanted to let you know that i really enjoyed your review. The part where you spoke about Muslims sheltering Jews reminds me of another novel i read and reviewed a while back. Its called Shadow of the Swords by Kamran Pasha. Its originally about the Crusades but one of the areas explored in the book is the religious tolerance of the Jews by the Muslims. Like you, i had no idea that long ago this happened and found it fascinating to read about it. By Fire By Water sounds like something that i would really enjoy. Thanks for letting me know about it.

    ReplyDelete
  9. One of my favorites is The Birth Of Venus by Sarah Dunant.
    peacelily_2006(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  10. I subscribe by email.
    peacelily_2006(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  11. I follow publicly on GFC.
    peacelily_2006(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  12. I subscribe with Google Reader.
    peacelily_2006(at)yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  13. Favorite historical fiction novel, right now: Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran. I read it this summer, and was absolutely amazed/astounded/in awe of the story ... Beautiful. Just beautiful. Everyone needs to read it!

    quarterback.girl(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  14. Following on GFC and Twitter :o)

    quarterback.girl(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  15. Email subscriber!

    quarterback.girl(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  16. Tweeted: http://twitter.com/RivkaBelle/status/24757578007

    btw, My twitter name and GFC name are both RivkaBelle, forgot to mention that in the other post, oops! :o)

    quarterback.girl(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  17. I haven't actually read too much historical fiction as of yet. Probably the best so far would be The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran.

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  18. I follow

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  19. I subscribe via RSS

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  20. Tweet:
    http://twitter.com/nfmgirl/status/24857431981

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  21. my favourite historical fiction novel is the YA Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

    ReplyDelete
  22. I am a GFC follower already :)
    strandedhero@gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  23. I was already a subscriber prior to this post :) on google friend connect
    strandedhero(at)gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  24. Tweet:
    http://twitter.com/nfmgirl/status/25032813595

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  25. Tweet:
    http://twitter.com/nfmgirl/status/25137827954

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  26. Tweet:
    http://twitter.com/nfmgirl/status/25229354572

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  27. Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran.

    aikychien at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  28. Follow on Twitter @aikchien

    aikychien at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  29. I tweeted:

    http://twitter.com/aikchien/status/25229933967

    aikychien at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  30. Subscribed via Google reader

    aikychien at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  31. My favorite in historical fiction was Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.
    rsgrandinetti@yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  32. I follow as Renee G on GFC.
    rsgrandinetti@yahoo(DOT)com

    ReplyDelete
  33. Entered the Spirit Giveaway.
    rsgrandinetti@yahoo(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  34. My new favorite is The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom. I just can't say enough about that book!!

    choateorama(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  35. I follow on gfc.

    choateorama(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  36. It's actually Christian historical fiction - but I adore the Love Comes Softy series by Janette Oke. I started reading the series when I was in jr. high! Old habits die hard!

    TaraTagli at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  37. I follow you publicly on Google Friend Connect!

    TaraTagli at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  38. http://twitter.com/TaraLin/status/25311570305

    I tweeted about the giveaway!

    TaraTagli at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  39. "The Other Boleyn Girl"

    theyyyguy@yahoo.co

    ReplyDelete
  40. http://chicagocouponconfessions.blogspot.com/2010/09/giveaways_23.html

    I blogged!

    #1

    ReplyDelete
  41. http://chicagocouponconfessions.blogspot.com/2010/09/giveaways_23.html

    I blogged!

    #2

    ReplyDelete
  42. I love Gone with the Wind
    Diane Baum
    esldiane@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  43. I loved all of the old Irving Stone historical novels, including the one about Michelangelo, The Agony and the Ecstasy.

    ReplyDelete
  44. Marge Piercy's Gone to Soldieers was a good one.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Tweet:
    http://twitter.com/nfmgirl/status/25421390718

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  46. I liked Christina Dodd's Governess series. Cute reads, strong femail personalities.
    aleksa91 hotmail

    ReplyDelete
  47. Marge Piercy's Gone to Soldieers was a good one.

    ReplyDelete
  48. "The Other Boleyn Girl"

    theyyyguy@yahoo.co

    ReplyDelete
  49. I came via my RSS reader. :)

    headlessfowl at jteers dot net

    ReplyDelete
  50. My alltime favorite genre is historical fiction! It is really hard to pick a favorite, but if I had to I would pick one of two: The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory or The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir.
    Thanks!
    candc320@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete

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