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Jerusalem maiden : a novel by Talia Carner
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Jerusalem maiden : a novel (edition 2011)

by Talia Carner

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10221118,402 (3.84)4
Member:Essa
Title:Jerusalem maiden : a novel
Authors:Talia Carner
Info:New York, NY : Harper Paperbacks, 2011.
Collections:Read in 2013, Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Fiction

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Jerusalem Maiden by Talia Carner

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I did not find Jerusalem Maiden nearly as compelling as I hoped. It follows the story of a girl growing up in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community near Jerusalem in the early 1900s and rebelling against the bonds placed on her by her community. My main issue with the book is that I was unable to suspend disbelief while reading it. The focus is very much on the girl's (and later woman's) relationship with her religion and it just didn't compel me. I had trouble understanding the character's perspective even though that was clearly the author's intent. ( )
  sbsolter | Feb 6, 2014 |
Jerusalem Maiden was a book chosen by a friend for a book club reading.

The book is the coming of age story of Esther Kaminsky. She is a young Haredi girl, a Jerusalem Maiden; who's life is pre-ordained, because she is one of the Chosen by Hashem to help in the bringing of the Messiah and the help of the entire Jewish nation. The laws governing the Haredi are extremely strict: no images can be reproduced, no music, no dancing... There are laws to govern all. Her primary "job" as a Jewess is to get married, produce children and work to support her husbands yeshiva study. This is non-negotiable.

The book begins with Esther in her French teacher's home, where she's learning Art. Her struggle to be the self she wants to be and the self that society (or her klal) wants her to be are the very first paragraphs of this book. We first see her as a young girl with a gift of art. She is learning of color and the combination of different colors to make new, different and more rich colors. She is drawing a gecko, but knows that there are laws that forbid the drawing of Hashem's creatures. She is committing a sin by drawing this gecko. This is the set up of Esther's life. The fight between what is in her heart and the religion is she is born under.

Her life is extremely difficult and the choices she makes, make life that much more difficult. Very early on she recognizes her "calling" to be an artist, but this conflicts with what she understands her role in life to be. Esther, to me, was extremely difficult to like. She is by turns, convinced of this calling to be an artist (and she is an extremely gifted artist); and will switch in a heartbeat to the laws governing what a Haredi girl should be. She never makes a decision for herself. She is constantly waiting for Hashem to speak to her through "signs". Except that she is capricious in what she thinks these "signs" are, or what they mean.

She stands in her own way all the time. There are those that are willing to help her, but she is contrary to everyone. If the person is asking to help her be an artist, she wants only to be a Haredi girl. If they want her to be a Haredi girl, she wants to be an artist. She makes a decision to escape, a "sign" will appear and she must stay. She makes decision to stay, a "sign" will appear and she must go. She was extremely frustrating to me to sympathize for her. There were moments that were difficult, and being a parent and a woman, I can understand. There were more moments, however, that I simply did not like her.

I can never speak to the religious pressure she was under. There are, however, expectations that we all are born into. There are expectations that all parents have for their children; that society has for it's people and for their women. I also can't speak to having this gift of a calling (this Primordial Light) that Esther had. But there are things about myself that are true no matter what. I found her to be so different to me, that I felt no common bond with her. As women we all struggle with choices about what is best for us and how will we fit into society. I feel, however, that we must make the decision. We must choose the path we want to take. As hard as it may be, waiting for someone to guide you, or make decisions for you seems self defeating. I could not respect the choices made by Esther.

I felt most touched by Ruthi (and most saddened by her ending).

This was a frustrating read for me. I felt bad for everyone, and helpless about the life the Haredi women have to lead, but then this is their religion. How can you feel bad for that? Faith is difficult and I shouldn't judge someone else's faith; however, I found it foreign and sad. It is a thought provoking book. I just wish I had connected more to Esther.
( )
  mearias | Sep 23, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Esther Kaminsky, a young Jerusalem-born woman, can only dream of the life she wants - so far away from her real one, the life of an Orthodox Jewess, ordained by Hashem to be full of suffering and drudgery in order to help "hasten the Messiah's arrival." Little do her somewhat-sympathetic father and hard-hearted mother know, that when Esther leaves her school every day she's off to her art teacher's to study the only craft she loves - painting. How can Esther's two mutually exclusive worlds ever marry? Will they ever, before it is her time to marry, and forever extinguish her own dreams of painting and taking control of her life?

The sense of urgency in the story, leading up to Esther's climactic decision, is breathless as she takes us through her daily life in the beautiful but poverty-stricken city of Jerusalem. Her daily tasks and all her thoughts are interrupted by her need for beauty and artistry, her life saturated with the desire to capture the world and make it her own. Esther's "impertinent" character and her reactions are believable through all the twists and turns she takes, upending some of her super-orthodox beliefs, only to reclaim them later on. Her confusion and desperation amidst so many trials and betrayals are immediate and heartrending to read about - I was completely absorbed in this story, which happens to be based on author Carner's great-grandmother but veers in a what-if direction that is also reflected on by the story-Esther. It slowed down a little too much after the Big Event I won't tell you about, but at the core this novel is a great exploration of faith in the face of reality and changing times and places. This was the theme that drew me to click on the "Request" link for the book in the first place, and I also got some great character development and language as rich and expressive as any of Esther's beautiful paintings. A terrific book. ( )
  Novimarra | Jan 10, 2013 |
I did not care much for the very plain writing, but this book did get me thinking. It showed me how a person can attribute any events she chooses to G-d's will, and that was an insight I appreciated. I also was pleased with the ending proving that many adjust to whatever is necessary. ( )
  suesbooks | Jun 20, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I really enjoyed this book. A very interesting read about women and the role of religion in their lives. I highly recommend it to others! ( )
  jasminemarie | Oct 26, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062004379, Paperback)

In the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, a young Orthodox Jewish woman in the holy city of Jerusalem is expected to marry and produce many sons to help hasten the Messiah's arrival. While the feisty Esther Kaminsky understands her obligations, her artistic talent inspires her to secretly explore worlds outside her religion, to dream of studying in Paris—and to believe that God has a special destiny for her. When tragedy strikes her family, Esther views it as a warning from an angry God and suppresses her desires in order to become an obedient "Jerusalem maiden."

But when a surprising opportunity forces itself on to her preordained path, Esther finds her beliefs clashing dangerously with the passions she has staved off her entire life—forcing her to confront the most difficult and damning question of all: To whom must she be true, God or herself?

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:50 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"In the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, a young Orthodox Jewish woman in the holy city of Jerusalem is expected to marry and produce many sons to help hasten the Messiah's arrival. While the feisty Esther Kaminsky understands her obligations, her artistic talent inspires her to secretly explore worlds outside her religion, to dream of studying in Paris and to believe that God has a special destiny for her. When tragedy strikes her family, Esther views it as a warning fom an angry God and suppresses her desires in order to become an obedient 'Jerusalem maiden'."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Talia Carner chatted with LibraryThing members from Oct 18, 2010 to Oct 25, 2010. Read the chat.

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