Friday, July 23, 2010

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan review & giveaway

Author: Mitchell James Kaplan
Publisher: Other Press
Publication Date: May 18, 2010
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN: 978-1590513521
Genre: Historical Fiction

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.
(From the Publisher)

My Review:

I have read numerous novels set during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, although I must say that none can compare with the power and beauty of By Fire, By Water. There was an emotional rawness in the both the chancellor, Luis de Santangel and Judith Migdal, a Jewish woman struggling to save her family, that makes the reader take notice to their plight. I also enjoyed that both the book and the characters will multilayered, and the way Kaplan writes we get to see both the and the characters striped down.

Not only is this book vivid historical account of the time, it is also a beautifully composed loved story, that will take your breath away. A true journey of discovery in a time when many felt their world come down around them. Kaplan’s fluid and highly descriptive writing will keep you engaged to the very end of this heartfelt story.

A rich tapestry finely woven with historical details, By Fire, By Water is a book that everyone should read and then reread.

My thanks to the author for providing me with the following guest post:

Romance & History

I met Annie on a Paris Metro train. She was sitting across from me, talking with her brother Michel as we approached the Ile de la Cite. They were discussing contemporary Spanish writers. I intervened, telling them I was doing research about Spain. Their family had lived in Spain until 1492, Michel told me. He gave me his phone number.

Later, Annie described her first impression of me: a nice American boy, lost in Paris. It wasn’t accurate, at least the latter part. I had been living in Paris for years, I knew the city well. I had friends all over. Perhaps that was how she wanted to see me, as somehow helpless.

Two weeks after our first encounter, we were head over heels in love. A dear friend of hers was having problems in his marriage, He asked Annie if his five-year-old daughter Maude could stay with her for the weekend.

She was a rambunctious little girl, full of life and laughter. Annie took her shopping at an open market in the Faubourg St-Antoine. I tagged along. I observed how Annie played with Maude, provided boundaries, watched her. She seemed to love her as if Maude were her own daughter. Looking at them over a pile of grapes on a big table, a thought entered my mind: this is the woman of my life. I felt honored and surprised that such a thought could even be thinkable. Somehow, I knew it was true.

Although penniless, I burned with desire to visit the Alhambra castle, near the southern tip of Spain. I managed to save up enough francs for two round-trip second-class train tickets. I asked Annie if she wanted to come along

We slept in the train. After disembarking in Granada, we found a hostel, where we shared a room with a couple from Austria. We ate paella, rice with bits of shrimp, scallops, and bell pepper, because paella was cheap. We drank gazpacho.

As we walked through the Alhambra, I tried to imagine what it felt and looked like five centuries ago, when
Moorish princes and generals strolled through its gardens and slept in its ornate chambers. I pictured the `emir sitting on a stone bench, surrounded with courtiers, watching woman dance.

Many year latter, when Annie and I were grown up and living in America, with one kid in college and one in high school, that vision found its way into my historical novel. “By Fire, By Water.”

Oh, and yes-we are still in love.

I Have 2 Copies to giveaway on the 30th of July


Young in TX said...

Please enter me in this contest.


Shannon said...

Thank you for entering me. =)
tiredwkids at live dot com

Giveaway Roundup said...

Wow, this sounds really good. Please enter me.
ludeluh at yahoo dot com

Cat said...

Very glad you enjoyed this as I'm about to start reading it and really looking forward to it. It sounds wonderful

Historical Writer/Editor said...

Please enter me in the contest.
L_Hogg at comcast dot net

nfmgirl said...

I've heard good things about this one. Please count me in. Thank you!

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

misha1989 said...

Please enter me if the contest is international. i would love love to win the book.


Anonymous said...

I would love to read By Fire, By Water :) *Thanks* for the giveaway!

Soft Fuzzy Sweater said...

I have been hoping to win this book to add it to my historical fiction collection. It's not enough to read great novels but to OWN them! I am interested in the wrongs of the Inquisition and learning the truth about it as well as feeling the history through the fictional characters. Thank you for the opportunity.


Amy said...

My mom and I both have By Fire, By Water on our to-read lists... so if I win it would be a twofer! :)

Misusedinnocence said...

I would love to be entered for this. Thanks! :)

karenk said...

please count me in...thanks :)

kmkuka at yahoo dot com