The Enchantress Book Review

Enchantress: A Novel of Rav Hisda's Daughter
Maggie Anton
Penguin

Enchantress is the extraordinary story of a 3rd century Jewish mystic in Babylon. I suppose it is technically fantasy (or religious, depending on your point of view) because magical things happen, but it reads very much like historical fiction, and based on the author's website, it's very much rooted in history. 

The author, Maggie Anton, has studied the history of Judaism in depth and actually based the novel on true characters from the Talmud. I'm not Jewish and I know nothing about Jewish history or the Talmud, but I really enjoyed this work of fiction.

Hisdadukh, the main character, is working on developing her own powers as an enchantress as well as dealing with the everyday life of being a woman in a man's world. Her husband is a revered scholar, and they move around the region for his studies and his teaching. It's interesting to learn about the traditions and cultural expectations of that time period. Although they are different than today, I think a lot of women can relate to the compromises she has to make between her own career and her husband's and the challenges brought on by family obligations and childbearing.

Enchantress has an interesting structure. Several pages will be devoted to detailed discussion of Jewish law and morality as the couple discusses the cases her husband sees in court. These parts were a bit challenging to read because of all the vocabulary I did not understand, and I was never so glad for my Kindle's dictionary and web search features. It's also a love story, and there are some very earthy and passionate love scenes between the couple. Last, it's an interesting exploration of the development of a woman's voice and power. All three of these are woven together in a really interesting way.

Enchantress is one of the more intellectual reads I have tackled lately, and I really enjoyed digging into this novel and spending time reading it and thinking about it. I'm definitely going to seek out more of Maggie Anton's novels to read. There's actually another novel about this character, Rav Hisda's Daughter, Book I: Apprentice: A Novel of Love, the Talmud, and Sorcery, although I don't know that you would have to read it before reading Enchantress. Quite a bit of her history is told at the beginning of the book. But I think I will tackle that one next and see where it takes me.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Angie for you thoughtful review and for taking the time/effort to read my somewhat intellectually challenging novel.

    ReplyDelete