BY RACHEL KADISH
REVIEW BY: MARCIA R. RUDIN
“Never underestimate the passion of a lonely mind,” Helen Watt, a British expert in Jewish history, tells her research assistant, post-graduate student Aaron Levy.
Helen is referring to Ester Velasquez, a Sephardic refugee in 17th-century London. She and Aaron have found evidence that points to Ester as having been the anonymous scribe of a trove of newly-discovered documents in Portuguese, Hebrew, Latin, and Castilian found hidden behind a wall of a London mansion undergoing restoration.
In The Weight of Ink (Mariner Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), National Jewish Book Award winner Rachel Kadish alternates the personal narratives of Ester, Helen, and Aaron. While the premise of connecting historical figures to modern-day characters through objects or events has been overdone recently, in this remarkable novel, Kadish interweaves her themes and characters’ journeys so skillfully, one can’t help being drawn into their lives and empathizing with their personal struggles.
To escape the Inquisition, Ester Velasquez’ family fled from Portugal to Amsterdam, a thriving city tolerating Jewish refugees as long as they did not pose a threat to Christianity or attempt to convert Christians.