Here is a story of life in 11th-century France told from the viewpoint of Miriam, daughter of the leader of a Jewish school. Readers see her victories and defeats, her fears and challenges. It is a story to be savored slowly while the reader ponders the debates of the Talmud featured throughout. Anyone interested in this time period will be fascinated by the depth and detail of Miriamís life.
This is also a story of personal freedom. Miriam faces opportunities and must decide if she dares to be different in a time of extremely rigid social mores, trapping her in a conflict between hopes and reality. Most of all, this is a story about taking what life offers and making the best with what you have been given.
I enjoyed the historical aspect of the story and appreciated the fertile details given by author Maggie Anton; I was also amazed at the frankness of her writings, which touch on aspects of medieval life rarely seen in literature. As one slightly familiar with Jewish law, I was intrigued to read about the educational process during that time period. What a wonderful way to learn! I must admit, though, the debates do continue quite a long time. Additionally, the book reads as more of a diary, quite straightforward with little theme or sense of a developing climax.
This is a book for readers who enjoy historical fiction and crave accuracy, a window into the life of medieval Jews at a time when Jews had more freedom, were allowed (and in fact controlled) much of the business at that time. I was left with a great respect for the resiliency of women during the medieval era.