The Mapmaker's Daughter
The premise of this novel is *right* up my ally: Jews, history, romance, a story spanning generations.... but it just fell a little flat. Laurel Corona set The Mapmaker's Daughter in the period leading up to the Jewish expulsion from Spain in 1492, and integrated her heroine (Amalia Cresques) into the key parts of the Jewish history in Spain. Amalia's family is conversos; Jews who converted to Christianity but are still suspected of keeping Jewish tradition.
The history is told in-depth; it begins in Seville, Spain in 1432 where Amalia is the daughter of a mapmaker of the Spanish court, continues when Amalia & her father go to Portugal to work under Henry the Navigator (to try and map Africa), then travels back to Spain, then to the Muslim caliphate at the Alhambra, Granada, and on, and on.... The story is told through flashbacks, with Amalia writing as an old woman reminiscing on everything that has happened to her. I'm wary of stories told through flashback- it feels like a cop-out to me, and it would've been much more rewarding if we just saw the story unfold as Amalia grew up.
The Jewish Book Council writes, "this is fiction, where the heroine is resolute against all odds and gives a vivid glimpse of a wrenching period of history too often forgotten." Kirkus Reviews agrees, "A rich, exhaustively researched portrait of Spanish Jews at the birth of the Inquisition." Yes, the history is important. But the story could've been told in a style that was more engaging and focused.