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The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish
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The Weight of Ink (edition 2018)

by Rachel Kadish (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8954518,741 (4.11)60
"An intellectual and emotional jigsaw puzzle of a novel for readers of A.S. Byatt's Possession and Geraldine Brooks's People of the Book Set in London of the 1660s and of the early twenty-first century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect: Ester Velasquez, anemigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city; and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history. As the novel opens, Helen has been summoned by a former student to view a cache of seventeenth-century Jewish documents newly discovered in his home during a renovation. Enlisting the help of Aaron Levy, an American graduate student as impatient as he is charming, and in a race with another fast-moving team of historians, Helen embarks on one last project: to determine the identity of the documents' scribe, the elusive"Aleph."Electrifying and ambitious, sweeping in scope and intimate in tone, The Weight of Ink is a sophisticated work of historical fiction about women separated by centuries, and the choices and sacrifices they must makein order to reconcile the life of the heart and mind"--… (more)
Member:rffischer
Title:The Weight of Ink
Authors:Rachel Kadish (Author)
Info:Mariner Books (2018), Edition: Reprint, 592 pages
Collections:Your library
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The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish

  1. 00
    Eventide by Therese Bohman (susanbooks)
    susanbooks: Someone with Aaron's personality & knowledge of his field (really lack of knowledge --c'mon, the guy has no idea how to read a sonnet & they're supposed to be his dissertation topic) is much more likely to be like the PhD student in Eventide. Eventide is the Long Scandinavian Night of the Soul to the Romance/Fantasy that is Weight of Ink… (more)
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English (44)  French (1)  All languages (45)
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
Ester Velasquez is a misfit in her world and time. She is a creature of intellect and learning in a time when a woman is supposed to be only about the home and hearth. Her story is discovered by 2 historians, one at the end of her career and one at the beginning of his. They are all trying to reconcile the tension in their lives between their minds and their hearts. Well written, well researched, emotionally touching. ( )
  bgknighton | Jan 22, 2022 |
It took me a bit to get into it but once I did I found it fascinating, learned quite a bit about 17th Century England and about people in the academic professions - and at times it did bring me to tears. ( )
  VictoriaJZ | Sep 8, 2021 |
The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish. A National Jewish Book Awards winner (2017). This book follows two London women from different eras – a history professor of the modern day and a Jewish scribe from 1660's London. When a cache of ancient papers is discovered beneath a stairway during a home renovation in London, professor Helen Watt and grad student Aaron Levy are called in to investigate the hoard. Who put the papers there and why? Why are they all written in the same hand? Who wrote them? The scribe signed all the documents with a Hebrew letter “A” or “aleph”. Not much to go on. Watt and Levy begin translations of these papers under the watchful eyes of the librarians of Watt’s college’s rare manuscripts room. They are in a race against time with a larger group of scholars who also want to be the first to get journal articles published about the papers’ historical importance. Levy hopes he can base a doctoral dissertation on them.
A picture of Masada, an ancient Jewish fortress hanging in Watt’s office is the catalyst that takes us back to Watt’s studies in Israel in the 1950's, when she fell in love with an Israeli soldier. Other chapters slowly reveal the life of Jews in Europe in 1660 and why they have traveled from Portugal to London via Amsterdam. The scribe is revealed as young orphan girl Ester Velasquez, a Portuguese Jew who takes dictation for her adoptive father, an elderly rabbi blinded by torture during the Spanish Inquisition. Will Watt and her soldier marry? What was life like for a cloistered Sephardic (Spanish) Jewish girl in London? Why was she a scribe when all other scribes were men? When the old rabbi dies, will Ester be forced to marry for her own protection? And then wouldn’t you know it, the Black Death – the bubonic plague -- arrives and Londoners’ lives are thrown into horror. Pandemics have been around for a long, long time.
This ambitious book tells of two women from different centuries who must make choices and sacrifices in very different cultures and eras. Yet, their characters are fleshed out with back stories, and their doubts, physical infirmities, dashed hopes and triumphs make them very human, similar to one another, and much like us. This is excellent fiction, the characters imaginary but set upon a framework of historical events. ( )
  Epiphany-OviedoELCA | Jun 29, 2021 |
I enjoyed this novel and admire Rachel Kadish's achievement in making her multi-stranded, long, historically complex novel work. She also has a lovely writing style that is poetic and vivid. One strand of the novel concerns a Jewish woman of the 17th C, Ester, who is part of a refugee population of Portuguese Jews in London. The other strand involves Aaron and Helen, two present-day academics in London (c. 2001). The novel turns on the discovery of hidden documents from the 1600s. There is additionally some backstory for all three main characters, but despite the shifting time periods and flashbacks, the whole thing coheres compellingly. Always one of my main criteria, I cared very much about the outcomes for all three main characters.

My four-star rating is intended as a high recommendation. I had a reservation about one of the backstory strands that didn't quite work for me, but this was offset by the author's ingenious weaving of information as pasts are revealed and come to terms with in very satisfying ways. ( )
  jdukuray | Jun 23, 2021 |
Jews, Judaism, Historical fiction, 1600’s, Scholars, Rabbi, Strong female character ( )
  quirkylibrarian | Mar 31, 2021 |
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Epigraph
June 8, 1691
II Sivan of the Hebrew year 5451
Richmond, Surrey

Let me begin afresh. Perhaps, this time, to tell the
truth. For in the biting hush of ink on paper, where truth ought
raise its head and speak without fear, I have long lied.
I have naught to defend my actions. Yet though my heart feels no
remorse, my deeds would confess themselves to paper now, as the least
of tributes to him whom I once betrayed.
In this silenced house, quill and ink do not resist the press of my
hand, and paper does not flinch. Let these pages compass, at last, the
truth, though none read them.
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
Dedication
For Talia and Jacob
First words
November 2, 2000
London

She sat at her desk.
Quotations
Helen Watts, sixty-four years old. Guardian of well-worn opinions and disappointments. The paths of her mind like the treads of an old staircase, concave from the passage of long-gone feet. (p. 21)
She picked up the quill, stained with ink, and dipped it. The thought came to her, unwelcome: ink purchased with blood. The price of her freedom. (p. 86)
Shutting her eyes, letting the crowd steer her, she saw behind closed lids the books that awaited her. An ecstasy of ink, every paragraph laboring to outline the shape of the world. The yellow light of a lamp on leaves of paper, the ivory-black impress of words reasoning, line by line. (p. 134)
Only that's what the world was: a trap. The circumstances you were born to, the situations you found yourself in -- to dodge that fray was impossible. And what you did within it was your life. (p. 547)
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"An intellectual and emotional jigsaw puzzle of a novel for readers of A.S. Byatt's Possession and Geraldine Brooks's People of the Book Set in London of the 1660s and of the early twenty-first century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect: Ester Velasquez, anemigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city; and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history. As the novel opens, Helen has been summoned by a former student to view a cache of seventeenth-century Jewish documents newly discovered in his home during a renovation. Enlisting the help of Aaron Levy, an American graduate student as impatient as he is charming, and in a race with another fast-moving team of historians, Helen embarks on one last project: to determine the identity of the documents' scribe, the elusive"Aleph."Electrifying and ambitious, sweeping in scope and intimate in tone, The Weight of Ink is a sophisticated work of historical fiction about women separated by centuries, and the choices and sacrifices they must makein order to reconcile the life of the heart and mind"--

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