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House of Rocamora by Donald Michael Platt

House of Rocamora

by Donald Michael Platt

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Recently added byBrokenTeepee, unabridgedchick

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House of Rocamora continues the saga started with Rocamora. Our hero has now embraced his Jewish ancestry, adopted the faith and moved to Amsterdam. At this time in history the Dutch Netherlands is very welcoming to Jews who are leaving Spain as a result of the waning years of the Inquisition. Rocamora is welcomed and he begins his life again; first by researching medical schools so he can get his degree, second by finding the final love of his life - Abigail. As soon as he completes his schooling they marry and he sets up his practice.
Their family grows and Rocamora is a very happy man.

Perhaps it is that contentment that leaves this book a bit flat when compared to the first. Rocamora's life in Amsterdam was relatively peaceful; a couple of bouts of plague and the unfortunately early death of his wife are the big drivers of plot. No big, sweeping historical moments. Not until the end when Charles II is restored and that is more his grandson's launch into history.

The book was still a good read. I like the character so following his life was of interest. He was a very proud man and he left a legacy to his surviving children. His story was worth reading for a glimpse into the life of an upper middle class doctor in the 17th century. ( )
  BrokenTeepee | Apr 19, 2013 |
This book is the sequel to Rocamora, a beefy historical novel following Isaac Vicente de Rocamora. Continuing the tale of real-life Dominican-priest-turned-Jewish-physician, Platt's book again delves deeply into 17th century life, this time focusing on Jewish communities in Amsterdam rather than the grim drama of the Spanish court.

I preferred this book to the first one, perhaps because of the more domestic focus. Vicente -- now Isaac -- is settling in his new home as a Jewish man, honoring his family's history in a way he couldn't while in Spain.

The reader follows Vicente through his education -- a bit of a crash course, as he's in his 40s and spent a good deal of his life absorbing Catholic doctrine -- and his courtship with the young, beautiful Abigail. A man who has run through a number of passionate, beautiful lovers, Isaac's focus on his family and his community is a refreshing change from the blood, guts, gore, and court intrigue found in Rocamora -- a shift seemingly so absurd I wouldn't believe it were it not based in fact!

As with his first book, Platt's meticulous research is clear and I found the historical details fascinating. Jewish culture and community in this era wasn't homogenized -- as with any broad denomination, there are various factions and levels of conservatism -- and Platt lightly touches upon the prejudices and tensions between these smaller groups.

Where Rocamora had plot so rich it dripped off the page, House of Rocamora is a quieter, slower novel, focused more on the man rather than the man's actions. I preferred this shift and enjoyed watching the man of action settle into life as a community leader, as a husband and father, and later, as a widower.

By the end of the novel, the story shifts to one of Isaac's children, and as with the first book, I found the ending could both be satisfying and a cliff-hanger, depending on your mood!

This edition has some lovely extras to help the reader: a map, a preface to set the mood and place, and information about the cost of living in the area -- helpful in evoking and imagining life there! ( )
  unabridgedchick | Apr 18, 2013 |
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