The Secret Book of Grazia Dei Rossi

Jacqueline Park, Author Simon & Schuster $26 (576p) ISBN 978-0-684-81603-6
""If I were a queen, my son, I would grant you vast lands and great wealth. If I were a goddess, I would bestow upon you an honorable wife and a tribe of healthy children.... But I am a scholar and a scribe, so the best I have to offer you is a document."" It is 1526 as Grazia Dei Rossi--heiress to an Italian-Jewish banking family, wife of the pope's Jewish physician and the lover of a Christian knight--begins this ""libro segreto in the Florentine manner."" In this subtle and seductive first novel, Grazia records ""the secrets of the heart"" for her son ""so that you may know whence you came from."" She begins with her birth into a ""modern and humanistic"" family in Mantova, and the destruction of her ""child's paradise"" as her wealthy family flees the province during a blood libel pogrom. Later, when Grazia and handsome young Lord Pirro meet and fall in love, the lovers risk their lives to carry on their interfaith tryst. Princess Isabella D'Este offers Grazia royal protection and her only chance to marry Lord Pirro--if she converts to Christianity. But ""deceit is bred in princes,"" and the promise is betrayed. In time, Grazia marries gentle and world-renowned Dr. Judah Del Medigo, her ""guardian angel,"" but the marriage is passionless: when a son is conceived after many years, the father is Lord Pirro. In the end, it is this son's lot to make Grazia's choice between the Christian lord and the Jewish doctor. Park has created a lively, courageous and introspective heroine. Through Grazia, she elucidates the intricate and perilous world of Italian Jews during the Renaissance, telling her spellbinding story with honesty and humor and meticulous historical accuracy. (Sept.) FYI: Park's book was inspired by two letters she found in New York Public Library: an invitation from Isabella D'Este to a young Jewish woman to convert to Christianity and join her lover at the Mantovan court, and the young woman's diplomatic reply.
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Paperback - 576 pages - 978-0-684-84840-2
Paperback - 978-0-684-00741-0
Open Ebook - 576 pages - 978-1-4391-2811-4
Paperback - 760 pages - 978-1-77089-889-9
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