Siguiriya

Sylvia Lopez-Medina, Author HarperCollins Publishers $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-017271-8
Inspired by the author's own multi-faith ancestry, this initially engaging historical novel follows three generations of the upper-class, Muslim-Jewish Cozar family, as it struggles to survive the Spanish Inquisition during the 15th century. The book's strongest chapters focus on the courtship and marriage of Bianca de Lucena, the strong-minded daughter of a wealthy Jewish merchant, to General Amahl Cozar, a devout Muslim who has devoted his life to an anti-Muslim king. Though Lopez-Medina's (Cantora) plot is intricately designed, showing how the problems affecting Bianca and Amahl (anti-Semitism, interfaith marriage) gradually infect the lives of the younger Cozars, her portraits of the children and grandchildren grow increasingly precious and her vaguely feminist, occasionally florid depictions of the family's strong women are ultimately weak. Still, her knowledge of the period is impressively detailed--from her convincing portrayal of a bullfight in Cadiz to her lucid description of the ""dark and horrifying"" regions of a cell beneath a chief Inquisitor's office. One only wishes Lopez-Medina had ditched the purple prose and focused on the experience of a few select characters rather than drag three generations of unmemorable heroines through a blur of historical events. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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