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The Mapmaker's Daughter by Laurel Corona
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The Mapmaker's Daughter

by Laurel Corona

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The Mapmaker's Daughter is the story of Amalia Cresques, spanning 60 years of her life in Spain and Portugal during the time of the Inquisition. It begins in 1432 when she is a 6 year old girl living in Sevilla. She and her family practice their Judaism in secret, while on the outside they purchase pork from the local butcher and wear crucifixes. They are called Judaizers, living outwardly as Christians, but keeping to the old ways in secret.

Amalia's story is told in 1492 when she is on the verge of departing Spain due to the mandatory expulsion of the Jews. She reflects back on her life experiences and the growing importance of Judaism throughout 60 years of her life.

She marries when she is young and narve and has a daughter whom she names Eliana. Amalia's life takes many twists and turns as she moves from Sevilla to Portugal, Granada, Alcala and eventually Valencia awaiting passage out of Spain.

Her faith is always tested as she is married inside the church to a sea commander, and later when she has a love affair with the handsome Muslim man, Jamil. But she gains her strength from her Jewish family and faith and the rituals of Judaism; celebrating the Jewish holidays, lighting Shabbat candles, immersing in the Mikveh and eating kosher foods. As the story progresses, Eliana marries Isaac, the son of a prominent Jewish family, and it continues as her family grows with children and grandchildren.

Amalia and her family are very prominent and are very close to the royal court and rulers of Spain. Amalia was once the private tutor of young Isabella. But despite this, the expulsion of all Jews continues, unless they convert to Christianity.

This powerful story of one Jewish woman, the Mapmaker's Daughter, and her harrowing journey mirrors that of the Jewish community in 15th century Iberia, revealing how family and faith overcome even the worst the Inquisition could inflict on them.

I recommend this book as it offers insight into a very difficult time period for the Jewish people, and the struggle for faith and family to survive.

-Carol
  cavlibrary | Mar 5, 2016 |
I kept waiting for this book to get better but it never did. Sad, because it is such an interesting time. Too much telling not enough showing. ( )
  ellenuw | Jan 27, 2016 |
Well I am surprised to see that there are so few reviews for this book.I enjoyed reading this book. I liked learning about the Jewish culture and traditions. This book takes us through the persecution and racism that occurs as Amalia’s family goes through time. Amalia was her father’s right hand man and the book tells of their close relationship. This was a little unusual, but he had no son, so it was accepted. Amalia must make many decisions through out her life often at her own expense. This book contained strong female characters. It has a couple of places where it is just a little racy and explicit. I would recommend it for adults, not young readers. I also got a little bogged down at the end. The story needed to wind up a little quicker.I find it interesting that way before Hitler the Jews were under persecution. I give this book 4 out 5 stars. ( )
1 vote Pattymclpn | May 4, 2014 |
This rich novel, set in 15th century Spain and Portugal, follows the life of Amalia Cresques, a conversa who eventually returns to her Jewish faith at great personal expense.

Born to a famous mapmaker, Abraham Cresques, who eventually went deaf, Amalia's gift for languages allows her to accompany him to court where she assists him with his work. But after his passing, she finds herself a wife in an unhappy marriage and in constant search for the home and community that will allow her to worship openly as a Jew.

I hesitate to describe this as an 'inspirational' novel but it is a rather faith/spirituality heavy book, which I struggled with at times. Despite the title, the story has very little to do with mapmaking; it's really about Amalia's life and her passion for her Jewish faith. There's non-stop action, from the erratic behavior of the various monarchs to the rough hatred for the Jews by Christians and the Inquisition, punctuated by moments of domestic drama or bliss.

I have some complicated feelings toward this book. One critique is that it felt a little too long and exposition-heavy; I found myself skimming pages at times, especially at the end when Amalia's family grows so huge it's hard to tell everyone apart. She lives in an incredibly violent, tumultuous era, so there's non-stop action, and that was occasionally tiresome.

Personally, I was frustrated with Amalia for her choices; her devotion to her faith really cost her in terms of happiness and love, and I found her story ultimately quite depressing, although I don't think that was the author's intention. Still, I enjoyed her voice and found her to be well-written and evocative.

This edition includes a 26-question discussion guide and some book club activities; I was surprised to learn that Amalia's father and her acquaintances were all historical figures, and that the heartbreaking incident at the very end was real. (Apologies for being vague, but I don't want to spoil anyone!)

For those who like great heroines, sagas of family, and coming-of-age stories, this is your novel. It's a wonderful arm chair escape, too, as Corona evokes 15th century Iberia in vivid detail. ( )
1 vote unabridgedchick | Mar 17, 2014 |
The Mapmaker's Daughter introduces the reader to young Amalia a sweet, intelligent girl living a lie. She is Jewish but due to pressures places upon Jews her family have become conversos - they have ostensibly converted to the Catholic faith. Her father does all he can to live openly as a Christian but her mother holds fast to the old ways. Amalia finds strength and comfort in the rituals that have been part of her life for as long as she can remember but they are putting the family in danger so they must end.

The novel bounces back and forth in time; from when Amalia is a young girl to 60 years later when she is an old woman at the end of her life. A life that proved to be very eventful. It has come to that time in history when Ferdinand and Isabella are expelling all of the Jews from Spain and Amalia must make her decision to to or to stay and face the consequences so the book is read both backward and forward in time until it meets.

I enjoyed the two different time periods with Amalia looking back on her youth. Amalia is a wonderful character; complicated and flawed. She was most assuredly a child of a most complicated time. She came to adulthood in probably one of the worst periods in Spain's history - that of Torquemada and the Inquisition. The book is impeccably researched and the history is woven in seamlessly. Where it fell short for me is when the book turned away from Amalia and on to major historical figures and her extended family. It seemed to lose something when it went so far afield. It was so very personal in the beginning and then it become more general. Don't get me wrong, it was still good, just not AS engrossing for me. ( )
1 vote BrokenTeepee | Mar 13, 2014 |
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On the eve of the Jewish expulsion from Spain, Amalia Riba stands at a crossroads. In a country violently divided by religion, she must either convert to Christianity and stay safe, or remain a Jew and risk everything. It's a choice she's been walking toward her whole life, from the days of her youth when her family lit the Shabbat candles in secret. Back then, she saw the vast possibility of the world, outlined in the beautiful pen and ink maps her father created. But the world has shifted and contracted since then. The Mapmaker's Daughter is a stirring novel about identity, exile, and what it means to be home. A close look at the great costs and greater rewards of being true to who you really are. A lyrical journey to the time when the Jews of Spain were faced with the wrenching choice of deciding their future as Jews a pivotal period of history and inspiration today.… (more)

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