Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Last Jew

The Last Jew covers the life of Yonah Toledano of Toledo, Spain.  When the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 by Ferdinand and Isabella he remained behind, having missed the last boat out of the country.  He was 15.  The novel is a story about the Spanish Inquisition where Jews either had to convert to Catholicism or leave the country.  Those that converted, the so called "new Christians," were still in danger of being accused of heresy, a crime punishable by death.

Yonah witnessed the death of his father and brother during the 3 month period that they had to leave within and vowed to his father that he would always remain a Jew.  Yonah changed his name and frequently changed jobs.  When he felt that he was in danger of being exposed, he left the job. He worked as a farm worker, seaman, shepherd, armorer and finally apprenticed as a physician.

You really get an idea of what life was like during this time period.  The author well-researched the history and it shows. I felt sorry for this character who had to keep running away from potential trouble.  It reduced his life to basic terror.  While I know that many people lived this way at the time, it is hard to come to grips with it as a modern person.

I did not know much about the Inquisition before reading this novel and my curiosity has been peeked.  I would love to read more about this era both in historical fiction and non-fiction.  

Highly recommended.

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