“Talia Carner is a skillful and heartfelt storyteller who takes the reader on journey of the senses, into a world long forgotten.”—Jennifer Lauck, author of Blackbird
“Exquisitely told, with details so vivid you can almost taste the food and hear the voices….A moving and utterly captivating novel that I will be thinking about for a long, long time.”—Tess Gerritsen, author of The Silent Girl
“Talia Carner’s story captivates at every level, heart and mind.”—Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean
The poignant, colorful, and unforgettable story of a young woman in early 20th-century Jerusalem who must choose between her faith and her passion, Jerusalem Maiden heralds the arrival of a magnificent new literary voice, Talia Carner. In the bestselling vein of The Red Tent, The Kite Runner, and A Thousand Splendid Suns, Jerusalem Maiden brilliantly evokes the sights and sounds of the Middle East during the final days of the Ottoman Empire. Historical fiction and Bible lovers will be captivated by this thrilling tale of a young Jewish woman during a fascinating era, her inner struggle with breaking the Second Commandment, and her ultimate transcendence through self-discovery.
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About the Author
Talia Carner is the former publisher of Savvy Woman magazine and a lecturer at international women's economic forums. This is her fifth novel.
Read an Excerpt
Jerusalem MaidenA Novel
By Talia Carner
Harper PaperbacksCopyright © 2011 Talia Carner
All right reserved.
September 1911/tishrei 5672
Esther's hand raced over the paper as if the colored pencils
might be snatched from her, the quivering inside
her wild, foreign, thrilling. All this time she hadn't known that
"blue" was actually seven distinct shades, each with its own
nameazure, Prussian, cobalt, cerulean, sapphire, indigo,
lapis. She pressed the waxy pencils on the paper, amazed by the
emerging hues: the ornaments curving on the Armenian vase
were lapis; the purplish contours of the Jerusalem mountains
were shrouded by indigo evening clouds. In this stolen hour at
Mademoiselle Thibaux's dining-room table, she could draw
without being scolded for committing the sin of idleness, God
A pale gecko popped up on the chiseled stone of the
windowsill and scanned the room with staccato movements until
it met Esther's gaze. Her fingers moving in a frenzy, she drew
the gecko's raised body, its tilted head, its dark orbs focused
on her. She studied the translucency of the skin of the valiant
creature that kept kitchens free of roaches. How did God paint
their fragility? She picked up a pink-gray pencil and traced the
fine scales. They lay flat on the page, colorless. She tried the
Her hand froze. What was she thinking? A gecko was an
idol, the kind pagans worshipped. God knew, at every second,
what every Jew was doing for His name. He observed her now,
making this graven image, explicitly forbidden by the Second
Commandment, Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven
image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that
is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
With a jerk of its head, the gecko darted away. Esther stared
at the paper, her hand in midair. She had never imagined a sin
Mlle Thibaux walked in from the kitchen nook, smiling.
Her skin was smooth, luminous, and her brown hair uncovered,
its coquettish ripples pinned by twin tortoiseshell combs.
She picked up Esther's drawing and examined it. "C'est mer-
veilleux! Quel talent!"
Esther blushed. The praise reflected what Mlle Thibaux's
raised eyebrows had revealed that morning in sixth-grade
French class when she had caught Esther doodling. To Esther's
consternation, her teacher must have detected the insects
hidden inside the branches and leaves. The teacher turned the
page this way and that, and her eyes widened. She then asked
Esther to stay after school, and Esther was certain she would
be ordered to conjugate the verb "to be" hundreds of times
on the blackboard: je suis, tu es, il est, elle est Instead, Mlle
Thibaux invited her to her apartment at the Hospice Saint Vincent
de Paul, a palace like building with arch fronted wings,
carved colonnaded verandas and balustraded stairwells. The
teacher was a shiksa, a gentile. Newly arrived from Paris, she
probably didn't know that while it wasn't forbidden in Esther's
ultra-Orthodox community to decorate with flourished letters
and ornamental shapes, drawing God's creatures was another
Now, holding Esther's drawing, Mlle Thibaux smiled.
"Here, try mixing these two colors." On a separate page, she
sketched a few irregular lines with a pink pencil, then scattered
some short leaf-green lines in between.
Esther chewed the end of her braid. Fear of God had been
instilled in her with her mother's milk and in the Ten
Commandments tablets displayed everywhere, from her classroom
to the bakery. In addition, the Torah pronounced that
any urge must be suppressed, as it would surely lead to sinning.
The quickening traveling through Esther again proved
that what she was doing was forbidden. Her mother said that
Esther's harshest punishment for sinning would be failure to
become betrothed at twelve, as every good Jerusalem maiden
should upon entering her mitzvah age. Yet, as Mlle Thibaux
handed her the pink and green pencils, Esther silently prayed
for God's forgiveness and recreated the hues inside the gecko's
scales. To her astonishment, they blended as a translucent
A knock sent Mlle Thibaux to the door, her back erect and
proud as no woman Esther had ever known. The teacher
accepted a pail from the water hauler and carried it to the kitchen
while Esther collected the pencils into their tin box.
Outside the window, slicing off the top of the Tower of
David, a cobalt-blue sky hung low on the horizon like a wedding
chupah with a ribbon of magenta underlining it. A flock
of sparrows jostled for footing in the date palm tree, then rose
in a triangular lace shawl formation before settling again. The
warm smell of caramelized sugar wafting from the kitchen
made Esther hungry for tonight's dinner, a leftover Shabbatchallah
dipped in milk and egg, fried and then sprinkled with
sugar. Closing the pencil box, her hand traced its scene of a
boulevard in Paris, lined with outdoor cafés and their dainty,
white, wrought-iron chairs. Women wearing elegant hats and
carrying parasols looped their arms through men's holding
walking sticks, and the open immodesty of the gesture
shocked Esther even as it made something inside her tingle. In
Jerusalem, only Arab men, dressed in their striped pajamas,
idled on low stools in the souk and played backgammon from
sunrise to sunset. Their eyes glazed over as they sucked the
mouthpieces of hoses coiled around boiling tobacco narghiles.
Paris. Esther had never known a girl who traveled, but when
she had been little, her father, her Aba, apprenticed at a bank
in America. It was a disastrous exposure to "others," her
mother, her Ima, said, because it filled his head with reprehensible
new ideas, worse than the simpleton Hassids'. That was
why Aba sent his daughters to a school so elegant that Yiddish
was frowned upon. Most subjects were taught in English, and
Esther mingled there with Sepharadi Jewish girls who spoke
Ladino and Arabic as well as with secular girlsheretic Zionists
all of them, Ima saidwho spoke the sacred Hebrew.
"Chérie, will you light the candles?" Mlle Thibaux walked
in from the kitchen nook and placed a silver tea set on a spindle
table covered with a crocheted napkin. The high collar of her
blouse was stiff over starched pleats running down the front to
a cinched waist, but when she moved, her long skirt immodestly
hinted at legs. Had she ever walked in Paris with a man,
daring to loop her arm in his?
Mlle Thibaux smiled. "It's four o'clock"
Four o'clock? Esther's hand rose to her throat. Ima, who
expected her to attend to her many chores right after classes,
had been laboring alone while Esther was indolent. Ima would
be furious. "I must go home"
Mlle Thibaux pointed to a plate with slices of glazed cake
sprinkled with shaved almonds and cinnamon. "It's kosher."
"Non, merci. The neighborhood gates will get locked for
the night." Saliva filling Esther's mouth, she gathered her long
plaid skirt and backed toward the door. She had never tasted
a French cake; it had been ages since she had eaten any cake.
But Mlle Thibaux's kitchen was traife, non-kosher. Esther
wouldn't add another sin to her list. "Merci beaucoup!"
She ran out of the apartment, down the two flights of steps,
and across the stone-paved yard to the street facing the Jaffa
Gate in the Old City wall, where camels awaited pilgrims and
Turkish soldiers patrolled. Restless birds chirped in desperation
to find shelter for the night. Wind rustled the tops of the
tall cypresses and whipped fallen leaves into a spin. Maybe it
would rain soon, finally replenishing the dry cistern under her
Running downhill, she turned north, her sandals pounding
the cobblestones. At least she wasn't barefoot as she had
been that morning, putting her sandals on at the gate to Evelina
de Rothschild school to save the soles. She vaulted over
foot-wide sewage channels dug in the center of the alleys.
Then there was the open hill with only rocks and scattered
dry bushes flanking the dirt path grooved by men, carts and
beasts. Climbing fast up the path, she listened for sounds
beyond the trilling of crickets and the buzzing of mosquitoes. In
the descending darkness, a Jewish girl might be dishonored
by a Turkish soldier or murdered by an Arab. Just on the next
hill, the grandfather she had never met had been assassinated
while inspecting land he purchased for the first Jewish neighborhood
outside the Old City.
A scruffy black dog stood on a rock. Esther's heart leaped.
Dogs were despicable creatures; they carried diseases that
made people insane. It growled and exposed yellow-gray
teeth. When Esther swerved out of the path, it gave chase. She
screamed, running faster, the dog barking behind her. She
grabbed the hem of her skirt, and her feet pounded on rocks,
twisting, stumbling. If she tripped, she'd die. Now that the
Ottoman Empire was crumbling and the sultan neglected his
subjects, hungry Jerusalemites ate even rotting scraps of food,
and starving dogs bit people. The Turkish policemen killed
dogs on sight.
Was that the dog's breath on her heels? She gulped air. Her
wet cheeks were cold in the rush of wind. A blister burned
the sole of her foot. The dog must smell her sweat, her fear.
She couldn't outrun it. Her punishment for drawing idols had
come so soon! It had never occurred to her that there could be
a fate worse than Ima's warning about failing to find a groom.
To Esther, that threat had always sounded like a blessing.
Cold pain sliced her rib cage, and her lungs burned. She
could run no more. She stopped. Whirling, she faced the dog,
exposed her teeth and snarled, waving her arms like the mad
girl she'd become if it bit her.
To her amazement, the beast halted. Another snarl rose
from Esther's chest, tearing her throat, and the animal backed
off. She flailed her arms again, and the dog tucked its tail and
Her heart still struggling to escape its confinement, Esther
whispered a prayer of thanks and then fumbled for the amulet
in her pocket to stave off the evil eye. Her pulse drummed in
her ears. She broke into a trot. Five more minutes to Me'ah
She'arim. Her inner thighs chafed over her belted socks, but
stopping wasn't an option. Wicked windsworse than dogs
gusted in search of a soul deserving punishment, one that had
Panting, Esther was about to enter the tiny kitchen yard
of her home, when she was startled by a movement in
the shadow. Lilith the ghost? It was common knowledge that
she stalked the night. Or what if these were the robbers Ima
fretted about? Or Turkish soldiers raiding the Jewish streets
to kidnap boys for lifelong military ser vice, as Aba feared?
Esther held her breath as if she could become invisible, then
jumped at the screech from the rusty neighborhood iron gate
A figure stepped into the patch of yard washed by the last
light of dusk: her friend Ruthi.
"You scared me," Esther said in Yiddish, grabbing Ruthi's
hand. "What happened?" She scanned the large rectangle of
communal space created by rows of identical one and two
room houses clinging together like a frightened herd of goats.
Their back walls bordered the thoroughfare to form an impenetrable
blockade. In the center, the oven, the well, the laundry
shed and the outhouses were all dark and silent, as were the
yeshiva and the mikveh. Only the synagogue's windows shone,
where the silhouettes of praying men would sway until the wee
hours as they mourned the destruction of the Temple nineteen
hundred years earlier. "Did someone die?" Esther asked. After
the recent Day of Atonement, God might have struck a wicked
manor even a seemingly virtuous nursing mother.
"Did you take a ride in Elijah's chariot?" Ruthi asked. A
smile broke on her face and she gushed on. "Guess what? I am
going to be betrothed! Blessed be He."
"And I'm the rabbi marrying you," Esther said in a
ponderous tone and stroked an imaginary beard. She and Ruthi
had made a pact to refuse marriage until they finished school.
She wanted to report about her afternoon at Mlle Thibaux's,
but right now she had to get in the house. Resuming her own
voice, Esther motioned toward her kitchen yard. "Come in. I
have work to do"
"Well?" Ruthi asked.
"Well what? I'll beat you at hopscotch tomorrow." They
kept a running tally, and that morning Ruthi had taken first
"I can't play. Not now that I'm an adult."
The rising moon illuminated the delicate line of Ruthi's
thin nose and heart-shaped mouth. If she had Mlle Thibaux's
colored pencils now, Esther thought, she would highlight
Ruthi's clear skin with lavender
"Nu? Well?" Ruthi demanded.
The fact suddenly penetrated Esther's head with the
sounds of the neighbors' clattering pots and pans, the cries
of babies, the scratching of furniture being dragged to make
room for cots, and the angry thumping of Ima's wooden clogs
on the chiseled kitchen floor. "But, butMiss Landau said we
shouldn't get married before fourteen, or even sixteenand
"That's ridiculous. Name one religious girl in school who's
waited that long."
"I will," Esther said, even though Aba often explained that
marriage was the Haredi community's building block, especially
in Jerusalem, the holiest of all cities, where a maiden
carried the promise of perpetuity for all Jews in the entire
"My groom is a biblical scholar," Ruthi said.
"All these yeshiva boochers are afflicted with hemorrhoids
from sitting on hard benches all day and all night."
"I'm serious," Ruthi said. "Marriage will make me important."
The amulet in Esther's pocket felt cold. "You'll work
your fingers to the bone from dawn to midnight, you and the
children starving, barefoot, and living off charity, while he
Ruthi's eyes widened in shock. "It will hasten the Messiah's
Esther knew that her utterings were Zionist blasphemy,
but the subject of betrothal had never hit this close before.
"Do you want to be responsible for the future of all Jews?"
Ruthi stamped her foot. "Just say mazal tov."
A mosquito buzzed near Esther's head. "Who's your
"Yossel." Ruthi's tone turned dreamy. "I hear he's handsome."
Yossel? Esther remembered a short boy with buckteeth.
Ruthi was tall, as gentle as a reed by the Jordan River. Esther
sometimes made her balance a jug on her head so she would
move as gracefully as Rachel had when Jacob spotted her at
Excerpted from Jerusalem Maiden by Talia Carner Copyright © 2011 by Talia Carner. Excerpted by permission of Harper Paperbacks. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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What People are Saying About This
“Esther Kaminsky is a true heroine . . . The truly marvellous thing about JERUSALEM MAIDEN is how deeply Talia Carner is able to evoke Esther’s faith and the complexity of the choices she faces. A beautiful and timely novel.”
“JERUSALEM MAIDEN won me over from the first moment I began reading it...meticulously researched, and steeped in thorough knowledge, no less than deep understanding, of both this community and of the world of art in Paris at the beginning of the twentieth century... I could not put it down.”
“[A] fascinating story of how a talented, artistic woman from a conservative faith must balance the responsibilities of her heritage against her passions for love and art ... [JERUSALEM MAIDEN] brings an elusive time and place to life and makes you question the strengths of your own beliefs.”
“JERUSALEM MAIDEN is a novel but the reader feels that she has entered living, lost history. Once engaged, you cannot put this book down . . . [H]eartbreakingly real.”
“Talia Carner is a skillful and heartfelt storyteller who takes the reader on journey of the senses, into a world long forgotten. Her story of a woman who struggles and seeks the light is universal and inspiring. Read this book and savor.”
“[A]n exquisitely explosive journey . . . [JERUSALEM MAIDEN] immerses us in a provocative and astonishingly realized world filled with evil spirits, arranged marriages, prayer, poverty, and the pain of breaking free.”
“As bold and fragile as its main character, JERUSALEM MAIDEN is at heart a story of revolution. . . Captivates at every level, heart and mind.”
“Compelling ... vividly examines the grinding poverty and oppressive religious domination the heroine suffers in pre-World War I Mea Shearim, and then compares it with the seductive nonconformity she enjoys in the Parisian art world ten years later.”
“JERUSALEM MAIDEN is a page-turning and thought-provoking novel. Extraordinary sensory detail vividly conjures another time and place; heroine Esther Kaminsky’s poignant struggle transcends time and place. The ultimate revelation here: for many women, if not most, 2011 is no different than 1911, but triumph is nonetheless possible.”
“Exquisitely told...a moving and utterly captivating novel that I will be thinking about for a long, long time.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Jerusalem Maiden is the third book in a row that I have read that deals with a strong female protagonist. I may be running out of nice things to say about these women and their strength, but I have to say that this story deserves praise. It also happens to be the second story of a female leader set in Israel, but this story is set in more modern times, just after the turn of the century. With that being said the story of these people, the Haredi was really fascinating, and a side of Judaism that I have never really experienced. Esther's struggles were not only with what her family and culture expected, but her own personal beliefs in God, and how they could bring so much heartache as well as joy. There is also a love story that spans decades, but is so unassuming that you really don't see it play a major role until more than halfway through the book. I really liked this because it allowed for Esther's story to be her own, and not center on her relationships. The sacrifices Esther makes over and over in the name of God and for her family are astonishing, and her character is so well written I really wanted there to be more of her story. The author also managed to incorporate one of my other favorite settings: Paris, into Esther's story, so really this novel was a hit with me. Reviewed by Gabi for Book Sake.
Excellent read. Very well written.
Can a woman's desire to become an artist in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish culture of 1911 come true? Having a voice or form of self-expression is a constant struggle for feisty Esther living in the midst of a repressive society. The Haredi community of Jerusalem Maiden allows no independence for women apart from their fathers or husbands. Women are expected to bear children, cook, do laundry and be obedient. Esther anticipates a life of marrying young and having many sons to hasten the arrival of the Messiah. When she discovers her artistic talent, she feels duty bound to suppress it in order to follow God's path as dictated by her religious leaders. Award-winning author, Talia Carter, formerly the publisher of Savvy Woman Magazine, is the author of Puppet Child and China Doll. Ms. Carter is a voice for social issues such as domestic violence and infanticide in China. The book is an excellent mirror of Orthodox Jewish culture in the early twentieth century. Descriptive images abound: fried Shabbat challah sprinkled with sugar, squawking chickens hanging by their feet in the market, hair coated with olive oil then draped over the ears in a braid. Esther struggles throughout the book with her desire to be an artist and the demands placed upon women by the religious community. Her teacher claims art sets a person free. "But that was reserved only for those free to paint in the first place. Why was God making His gift so hard to carry out?" Esther's guilt pangs increase when she falls in love outside with someone outside of her religious community. Esther's doubts and devotion are a constant struggle for her. Although Jerusalem Maiden assumes a reader's understanding of ultra-Orthodox Jewish beliefs, its message is universal for those repressed by society, religious order, or self-induced guilt. LibraryThing and Harper Collins supplied the advance review copy. The opinions expressed are unbiased and wholly that of the reviewer. Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont
Jerusalem Maiden was very enlightening and riveting, documenting life during Jerusalem towards the end of the Ottoman Empire through the eyes of Esther Kaminsky. Being 11 years old, Esther is destined to marry and produce many sons to hasten the arrival of the Messiah, a woman great gift to her community. Esther has other wishes in her life that don't involve marriage (such as her budding interest as an artist), yet she struggles between these hidden loves ans her devotion to God, while keeping true her religious precepts. Esther goes through an eye-opening journey as she experiences many joys and sorrows with her friends and family, as she and her close friend lives through the shock of betrothal, and the life-altering events that changes each girl's life afterward. Along her growth is a mentor from the unlikeliest of places: her art teacher Mlle. Thibeax, who believes in Esther's artistic gift and presents her with an offer to experience another country, outside her sheltered life in her community. Throughout the novel Esther experiences flashes of growth and risk-taking, matched only by life challenges so severe, Esther sums up these moments as true tests from God in her journey.
This book is the story of a woman's life, and her relationships with god, her community, her family, and her art. it was a fascinating look at a time and place that I didn't know much about, but beyond that it was just an excellent book. The writing was wonderful, and the characters fascinating. I would have loved to have learned more about any of them. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever struggled with competing obligations to family, faith, and self.
Jerusalem MaidenIn ¿Jerusalem Maiden¿ we are taken into the Haredi or Ultra-Orthodox community of Jerusalem in the early twentieth century. Our interpreter, in this foreign environment, is a very young girl, Esther. We see her world through the restrictions that guide and threaten her as she reaches out to explore who she is.I am reminded of another Jewish coming-of-age story, ¿The Chosen¿, written by Chaim Potok. His story is set in a Hasidic community, which is another Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community. ¿The Chosen¿ is set in Brooklyn, NY in the 1940s. In this story we find a young man, Danny, who has expectations and restrictions thrust on him by his Hasidic community. Both Danny and Esther are drawn by their natures to find a new way to become their true selves without losing family and community where they were brought up. In these two stories, there are differences in geographic locations and time periods, as well as Jewish communities ¿ Haredi vs. Hasidic; and, there is the fact that one protagonist is female and the other is male. Can a child succeed under any of these circumstances?In both Jewish communities women were seen as adjuncts to their men. Danny¿s mother, although in charge of the same household and childbearing duties as Esther `s mother, was married to the leading rabbi of the Hasidic community. This man understood, no matter how different Danny¿s new path, if he did not give his son the ¿wiggle room¿, he would lose Danny all together, and despite the Hasidic teachings, he was not willing to lose his child. In the Haredi community of ¿Jerusalem Maiden¿, Esther¿s mother (with the help of two daughters) was worn away by her endless washing, scrubbing, cooking, and childbearing. She was a portent for Esther of what her future would be. Esther¿s father required her strict obedience giving more import to his religious rules than to his daughter¿s talents and needs. He allowed Esther no ¿wiggle room¿. How Esther realizes some of her dreams: therefore, is quite a tale.
Kind of boring, kind of by the numbers story about Esther, an ultra-Orthodox girl rebelling against her strict religious upbringing. It's ok if you like light historical fiction; fans of RASHI'S DAUGHTERS would enjoy it though it's nowhere near as good as those books. I didn't finish it but I read enough to get a sense. It wasn't interesting enough for me to finish it but I'd still feel comfortable recommending it to those with a strong interest in Jewish fiction.
This new novel by Talia Carner begins in Jerusalem in 1911. Esther Kaminsky is being raised in the Haredi community of Me'a She'arim. She is expected to marry young, give birth to many children, be a dutiful wife and thereby hasten the coming of the Messiah. Quite a responsibility!While Esther loves her family, she also is a gifted artist. Any profession is forbidden to her by her community and family. Art, in particular, is fraught with danger due to the Commandment not to make graven images. Esther's French teacher, Mlle. Thibaux has recognized her talent and is secretly giving her art lessons. When tragedy strikes Esther's family, she feels it her fault because she has been disobedient.And that is the puzzle of Esther's life. Should she deny her talent and bow to the wishes of her community? Or can she free herself and recognize that God has given her a special talent and the sin would be wasting the gift? There is no one in Esther's life who can provide her with guidance, and so she struggles.Jerusalem Maiden is a lovely book. It is well-researched, and Carner understands what life is like for the Haredi community. They are truly learned in the Torah and the Talmud, yet are otherwise beset by poverty and ignorance. They subsist on the charity of the Jews of the world, yet condemn them for their lack of righteousness and adherence to God's word (as the Haredi interpret it!). This dichotomy continues today.I highly recommend Jerusalem Maiden. Many thanks again to the LibraryThing EarlyReviewer program for sending me this book.
I'll first start by saying that I received this book as Early Reviewers book, so I thank the publisher and Library Thing for the opportunity to read the book. Although I didn't end up enjoying the book, I always appreciate the opportunity to read something new. Jerusalem Maiden is a story of a young, ultra-orthodox Jewish woman in the beginning of the 1900's. Forbidden to paint by her religion, she goes through religious and emotional turmoil because of it. The book follows her life as she is married off at a young age to a man her family scorns, but viewing her as damaged goods anyway, it matters little to them. Eventually (but not until well after 75% of the book) she travels to Paris, meets her childhood painting instructor, and tries to confront the big questions about who she is.When you describe it that way, it sounds like a pretty good book. In reality, I found it to be infuriating. The main character, Esther, lives the entire book inside her head, which is a confusing place to be, to say the least. I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that most of the readers of this book are not going to be overly familiar with Orthodox Jewish beliefs and customs, I'm certainly not. In the book, the main character spends a lot of time agonizing about a belief system which is only explained in bits and pieces. This makes the story a little difficult to connect with. I would have loved to learn more about her unique community and religious beliefs, but it just wasn't given. Most of the plot only relates to Esther's pain over her belief that she's violated religious doctrine that isn't really explained.If that wasn't bad enough, you have to follow her back and forth, pingponging logic about her religious beliefs. She paints, then feels guilty about painting, then tragedy strikes. In her mind, the misbehavior directly caused God to punish her with family tragedy. Some time goes by, and her family wants her to marry. She doesn't want to marry, so of couse when something else happens, then that is also punishment for her supposed sin of not wanting to get married.This continues in a predictable way throughout the book. Her less than perfect relationship with her daughter must be punishment for not wanting to get married and have children in the first place. Her husband's distance is punishment for having an orgasm, and so on and so forth.The only time when her thought process changes is when she goes to Paris toward the end of the novel. At that point, it does a complete 180. Almost overnight she changes to the belief that God wants her to be happy in Paris, with new clothes, a new boyfriend, and free of her husband and children. I actually found her to be more real and sympathetic in the last leg of the book, and was disappointed that it took so long for me to care. I would have liked to know what she was experiencing after she eventually returned home to her husband and children, but that information is only glanced at, second-hand in the epilogue.Overall, I just couldn't get interested in the main character's constant agonizing about her religious beliefs. 2 and a 1/2 stars.
I received an advance copy of Jerusalem Maiden: A Novel, by Talia Carner as an Early Reviewers book. The story, about a young ultra-orthodox Jewish woman at the beginning of the 20th century, sounded like it would be right up my alley. Esther is born into poverty and upheaval in Jerusalem. She struggles with her religion and her responsibilities as a female as part of her family and faith. This part I enjoyed as I could imagine the situation. However, I had a hard time with the believability factor of some events in the book... in spite of her ultra conservative heritage and family, she seems to be permitted to run around the city unsupervised quite a lot. The fact that she was given a more advanced education than most Jewish girls and specifically intensive lessons in french? I don' t know much about orthodox Judaism or the culture of that place and time, but it seemed a little far fetched.Beyond that, however, I thought it was an interesting read, and certainly has piqued my curiosity about Judaism. While I doubt it is an accurate reflection of the life of your average Jewish girl, it did stir up some thought, which as an avid reader, is most important to me.I don't know that I would put this book on my "highly recommended" list, but I did find it to be an interesting and enjoyable read.
I did not care much for the very plain writing, but this book did get me thinking. It showed me how a person can attribute any events she chooses to G-d's will, and that was an insight I appreciated. I also was pleased with the ending proving that many adjust to whatever is necessary.
Jerusalem Maiden by Talia Carner encompasses two themes I find very interesting¿women¿s rights and the role of women in religion. These two reasons alone would make this book an interesting read for me, but Jerusalem Maiden was so much more. I found it easy to identify with Esther Kaminsky, the main character, despite the fact that I have lived my life in another time and place and in another religion entirely. Her struggle to balance love of God, family, and career is something many modern women experience on a daily basis. Set in the early 1900¿s as the Ottoman Empire begins to crumble, Esther is faced with becoming a young wife whose role will be to cook, clean, and have children, while inwardly she yearns to pursue her artistic talent and create what her ultraorthodox Jewish community identifies as ¿graven images.¿ Throughout the book, Esther struggles with the expectations of others and her passion for art. A beautifully written novel full of period details and information about the Haredi Jews, the conditions of Jews under the Ottoman Empire, and the world of art in Paris during the 1920¿s. I highly recommend this book.
Jerusalem Maiden was not at all what I expected. I think after reading some fairly heavy Jewish stories in the last year I was expecting another similar to those, but instead got a very approachable, easy to read story about a young Jewish girl pre-WWI.This isn't a bad thing though. I'm familiar with some Jewish traditions and rituals, but this book took them all to a new level with the strictness Esther and her family lived by those rules. Just being kosher wasn't even - but being raised, as a female, to be the "salvation" of the Jewish race and having all that weight put on you - I can't even imagine.I did struggle with the book a bit, and I can't really recommend this book to those who are looking for a more religious themed novel due to some rather graphic sexual scenes and choices made by Esther. In a way, the story reminded me of another of my favorites, A Long, Long Time Ago & Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka, except this story lacked the charm and fairy-tale like quality that book had, which made it seem more heavy. I found Esther's story to be a tragic one and, while I wasn't sorry to see the story come to an end (it was just really depressing), I am glad I read this book just for the information I received about a time I really haven't read that much about and a sect of the Jewish people I knew very little about.
I love the writing style of the author, the story was extremely interesting and I learned so much about Haredi Judaism during that time period. The writing seemed slow at the beginning but my interest in the main character, Esther Kaminsky kept me turning the pages. I was entranced from the first page.When the story opens, Esther is a young girl living in Jerusalem in the most conservative of ultra-orthodox communities of Haredi Judaism in 1911. The book¿s dedication is to another Esther, the grandmother of the author. When I finished this book I was so full of questions. So I searched for an interview with the author and found an excellent on Blog Talk Radio. I highly recommend listening to that interview after reading the book because you may have nagging questions too. Esther was supposed to marry young and bear children, nothing else. There is quite a bit of suffering in the book but the women were supposed to bare it because accepting the sorrow and bad living conditions was supposed to bring the Messiah sooner. But Esther had a talent that was forbidden to be used in Haredi Judaism. It all depends on how the Second Commandment is interpreted. This is a very controversial commandment if you research it.Esther¿s talent provides one of the biggest conflicts for her. Should she remain to true to God as seen through her upbringing or give in to her yearning to be an artist? Esther is constantly struggling, and just when you then she had made a decision, something happens and she is thrown back into her turmoil. This book is extremely well researched and although I knew something about Judaic traditions, I did not know anything about Haredi Judaism traditions or particular religious beliefs. You could taste the food prepared with her description, know where you are by the sounds of the city or town, easily imagine the main characters and even smell the fragrant flowers or the smell of sweat.The only thing that bothered me besides the slow beginning was the radical shift in behavior of the main character. I wondered if she would really do what she did. I still have not decided.I recommend to anyone interested in historical fiction. I received this book from the Amazon Vine program, but that did not influence my thoughts for this review in any way.
I really enjoyed this book. A very interesting read about women and the role of religion in their lives. I highly recommend it to others!
I wish that the author had included a glossary for all of the Yiddish terminology.
I really enjoyed this book.
Jerusalem Maiden is a wonderful book. I loved the historical feel of the book and the story Ester revealed through her struggles with the strict laws of her religion, her places in the world as a female, and her on beliefs that a person should be happy in life. Esther's story kept me reading all night as the book takes us through several decades. I would like to highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a good novel that keeps you wondering where this young woman's life will take her.
Found the main character to be irritating and irresponsible for her own actions.
This is not an incantation of the hateful rhetoric that is associated with the title. Rather. it is us Jews that ask the question, “What limits are justifiably placed on our lives by our laws?” For more than half, probably far more than half, of all Jews, this is no archaic throwback; it’s a real issue. Many Jews, Muslims, and animists – practitioners of any “traditional” faith except Christianity – must choose whether or not to be bound by a tradition that is written in the Voice of God. What if who God authentically created you to be is at absolute odds with the laws that your culture demands that you practice? This is the question asked of Esther, the Jerusalem Maiden of the title. Esther feels her senses, acutely. She tastes things in color. She sees colors in action on paper, and the sensations of womanhood will roll over her in four dimensions. Every instant pops, washes, dances, tickles, or cries itself across her senses as the thing and its derivative in time. As a young girl in Meah Shearim, the most hateful corner of the most rigid city outside the Caliphate, her father lets her learn secular (horror!) subjects at the hand of a Mlle. Thibaux. Her best friends, Ruthi and Asher, also fight against the strictures of the Haredi vise grip. Ruthi fughts by committing suicide, and Asher, by exiling himself to Europe where he becomes one of its most celebrated conductors. As for Esther, she battles against her artistic talent and passionate nature. She tries, really tries, to honor her husband, with whom she has three (he believes four) children. But she winds up in Paris, meets her tutor and the tutor’s illegitimate but brilliantly talented son, who is just a few years her junior. There, she dicovers that a painting of Jerusalem that she did as a child hangs in the Louvre. There is a shift in voice that occurs when the book flashes forward to present day. The poignancy of being free to be who you are, but choosing obligation over integrity, practically drenches the pages of this imporrtant literary novel with its tears and its blood. History, and the might-have-beens, will leave any perceptive reader moved. I’m no stranger to this discussion myself, having pursued a fine arts career only to leave a broken marriage and financial ruin in the wake of that vessel. Did Esther have regrets at the end? You will wonder – because the answer is never given. Neither is the answer to the only question that matters more than the “Jewish question” of this book. The only question really worth sacrificing for is the question of love. If I have one minor beef with the book, it is that the author, Talia Carner, is uncompromising in her hostility to the people of Meah Shearim. The only person in the whole novel for whom the mores of the Haredi hold any joy is the person whose fate it is to escape from them. Still, this book is a great achevement. I think that I will remember it long after my own output has been forgotten.
When I read a good book I want to be swept into the world of the protagonist, to discover the inner workings of that time and place, and to learn about something I had known little about. I want to cheer the protagonist as she makes the long journey and stay with her throughout the ups and downs, the struggles and the hurdles--until the final triumph. I want to be there when the triumph turns out to be short-lived because the forces that shape her life might be greater than her spirit--or witness as she conquered them as well..... All this I've found in JERUSALEM MAIDEN. With fluid prose, unflinching excellent descriptions, fine-eye to detail and ear to dialogue, Talia Carner has created a story that is both unique and compelling. I could not put down the book, yet did not want it to end. But end it did, with two dramatic, emotional-filled events. Then came the final test of a good book, which made this novel the greatest literary feat: The story stayed with me for days. Esther walked in the paths of my brain and heart. The moral, religious and psychological questions kept haunting me with their possible answers. They challenge me as few thought-provoking novels ever do. Hurray, author Carner!