A Gail Carson Levine eggshell blanket – Bible Type

A Gail Carson Levine eggshell blanket

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A blanket of eggshells is the homage of the well-known author Gail Carson Levine to her own Sephardic-Jewish heritage.

A blanket of eggshells by Gail Carson Levine. Harper, 2020, 317 pages.

Reading level: Teenagers aged 12-15 years

Recommended for: 12-16 years

Spain, around 1490: As the daughter of a large and wealthy Jewish family that is protected within the borders of the Juderia, Paloma (Loma) Cantala looks forward to her own husband and family, while lovingly caring for her nieces and nephews. However, the Almighty seems to have a different plan when he decides that Loma's beloved grandmother should die in the plague. Her grandfather Don Joseph, patriarch of the family, then settled on Loma as his favorite grandchild. She has a flair for numbers, a calm personality and a certain talent as a cook – all favorable for Belo, who decides that Loma can take the place of his deceased wife as a confidante and travel companion.

Belo is one of the richest Jews in Spain, often traveling to pursue business opportunities and political alliances. The advantage of traveling with him is that Loma will meet the nation's prominent people, including King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The disadvantage, which will soon become apparent, is that Belo will not have competition from a potential husband. And, as Loma will soon learn, it is a crucial time for the Jews to convert under great pressure from the Christians. How long will Belo's money hold her up? Will he be able to bribe the King and Queen or even the fearsome Inquisitor Torquemada?

Loma grows from a shy 11-year-old to a mature teenager – and in her culture to an old maid – who finally works free from her grandfather. Its dynamism is at the heart of this sprawling story, and Belo is a towering figure. But Loma is impressive in her own way, all the more for what young women are often taught today: her longing for a husband and children.

Christians are the antagonists here, although many of them are seen as sincere in their desire to save the Jews. Readers will easily understand that the offer of redemption, or otherwise, only "transforms" convenience. Loma expresses how the choice felt for pious Jews: "Since God made me, what do you think would he like better that I usurp his power and deprive myself or that I convert and worship false gods?"

Gail Carson Levine, known for Ella Enchanted and the Princess Series, analyzes her own family history for this family saga of the Sephardic Jews of Spain. Because Loma's strongest storyline is a conflicting relationship with her grandfather and the persistent pressure to convert, readers who are used to non-stop adventures may find this a kind of slogan. But a rich characterization and historical creation will compensate others.

Recital:

  • Christians may feel uncomfortable as Loma sees Christ and Christianity. However, it is worth talking about how Christianity was presented and practiced (by some) during this period of history. How did the behavior of nominal and even sincere Christians of the time contradict the actual teaching of Christ?

Overall rating: 4 (of 5)

  • Weltanschauung / moral value: 3
  • Artistic / literary value: 4.5

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