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Puppet by Eva Wiseman
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Puppet (2009)

by Eva Wiseman

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7514160,370 (3.87)2
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  1. 00
    Rachel's Secret (meggyweg)
    meggyweg: Both of these are young adult fiction treatments of the story behind two real pogroms.
  2. 00
    Easter in Kishinev: Anatomy of a Pogrom (Reappraisals in Jewish Social and Intellectual History) by Edward Judge (meggyweg)
    meggyweg: Two books about the same historical event: one academic nonfiction, one young adult fiction.
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A powerful fictionalized account of the the last "blood libel" trial in Europe. A revealing portrait of anti-Semitism in late 19th century eastern Europe. ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I requested this novel from Early Reviewers because I'd heard about the last "blood libel" trial in the late 1800s and had always been rather curious about what had happened.

As a story supplying that information, [i]Puppet[/i] works well enough: it tells how a rural Hungarian servant girl disappeared one day in 1882, and how her death was somewhat randomly blamed on the new Jewish "butcher priest," thanks in no small part to the coerced testimony of Morris Scharf, a young Jewish teenager. The trial became something of a sensation nationally and internationally, and the result is a matter of historic record, but I won't discuss it for potential spoiler reasons. As far as additional plot goes, Julie, the viewpoint character, a friend of the dead girl, ends up following the trial from small town to big city, all the while seeking to gain independence from her malevolent drunkard of a father and security for herself and her young sister after their mother's death.

Aside from its merits as a retelling of an important historical event, however, the novel flounders. Most if not all of the characters are flat--either cardboard cutouts of villainy or handy expendable figures just to move the plot along. The more conflicted and potentially interesting characters are given psychological profiling characteristics, rather than actually given the chance to become persons in their own right. So Morris Scharf, potentially the most fascinating character, is relegated to the sidelines and set up every so often to be the "puppet" of both the prosecutors and the author. And Esther, the eventual corpse, is a limp caricature of a depressed would-be suicide victim.

Plotwise, the story doesn't fair much better. Julie seems to trail behind the trial from pure plot necessity; her own struggles are only tangentially related and crop up seemingly just to persuade her to be more involved. This leads to some potential reader confusion as Julie becomes an important witness for the defense near the end of the trial. Although the author includes a brief acknowledgement indicating she based her novel on transcripts of the trial, it's not at all clear whether Julie's role in the trial was invented or whether there was such a figure whom the author chose to fictionalize. Actually, an afterword giving more historical context and, if possible, some knowledge of what happened after the trial would have been nice.

However, I can see why the novel did win awards: it does present a comparatively engaging account of a key incident in the history of antisemitism, one that doesn't seem to be over-fictionalized. With its simplicity of perspective and writing style, it could be used in schools quite easily. However, I think this incident deserves richer analysis, fictionally, and hope to come across such a novel at some point.
  InfoQuest | Sep 25, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
While I love historical fiction, I wasn't sure after the first few chapters whether or not I wanted to finish the book. The book takes place around an actual event where a number of Jews were arrested for killing a young girl. There was so much antisemitic conversation that it became almost unbearable. In the end, this was obviously a conscious effort to recreate the very charged atmosphere. It wasn't an easy book and it wouldn't be for all YA readers, but it was well written and worth the effort.
1 vote JulieBenolken | Jul 16, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
While I didn't expect a light read, this one was almost too dark for me. I don't normally read a lot of historical books, but this one was well-written and pulled me in. I will definitely look into other works by this author. ( )
  LisaMP | Jul 5, 2012 |
Reason for Reading: Many reasons: this is set within my preferred historical era, I enjoy Jewish history, I enjoy 19th century court/trial cases and finally I've read and enjoyed this author before.

Throughout time immemorial until the not so distant past, parents have kept children under control with stories of monsters, evils or persons who enjoy kidnapping and eating children. When I was young the remnant of this survived in the story of the "Bogeyman". This is a sad and horrific story where that fabled evil turned onto a real group of people in a small town in Hungary when a scapegoat was wanted and the villagers turned with a vengeance a mass racism towards the Jews to explain the disappearance of a local Christian girl.

A riveting, spellbinding story based on a true case. One can hardly believe that such mass hysteria can turn once seemingly placid people into violent racists. The author has extensively made use of the actual trial records giving authenticity to the dialogue found within the book. While no one is innocent of bigotry in this story, we see how an initially small group of instigators easily rile up the masses and the methods they use to fuel the fire until it reaches epic proportions and everyone is beyond seeing reason. Examining this type of case can help one see how modern atrocities reach the frenzy they sometimes do.

A brilliant story, with a fantastic main character in the fictional Julie who though she sometimes has doubts, does see beyond the facade and triumphs even against great harm to herself. A page-turning book, as one keeps muttering to oneself how people could actually behave in this deplorable way (and still do) and yet the rays of hope shine through in Julie and a few other characters. A unique look at historical Jewish persecution, that is not about the Holocaust. Recommended. ( )
1 vote ElizaJane | Jun 20, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0887768288, Hardcover)

A heartbreaking episode in history, explained through the story of a young servant girl in the late 1800s.

The year is 1882. A young servant girl named Esther disappears from a small Hungarian village. Several Jewish men from the village of Tisza Eszvar face the ‘blood libel’ — the centuries-old calumny that Jews murder Christian children for their blood. A fourteen-year-old Jewish boy named Morris Scharf becomes the star witness of corrupt authorities who coerce him into testifying against his fellow Jews, including his own father, at the trial.

This powerful fictionalized account of one of the last blood libel trial in Europe is told through the eyes of Julie, a friend of the murdered Esther, and a servant at the jail where Morris is imprisoned. Julie is no stranger to suffering herself. An abused child, when her mother dies her alcoholic father separates her from her beloved baby sister. Julie and Morris, bound by the tragedy of the times, become unlikely allies. Although Puppet is a novel, it is based upon a real court case that took place in Hungary in 1883. In Hungary today, the name Morris Scharf has become synonymous with “traitor.”

Once again, Eva Wiseman illuminates a heartbreaking episode in history for young readers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:17:47 -0400)

The year is 1882. A servant girl named Esther has disappeared from a small village in Hungary. There has to be somebody to blame, and the scapegoats are near at hand. The villagers invoke the "blood libel"--the ancient and disastrous lie that Jews kill Christian children for ritual purposes. Based on a trial that caused international outrage, Puppet explores the worst and they very best in human nature.… (more)

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Tundra Books

An edition of this book was published by Tundra Books.

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