The Weight of Ink

By Rachel Kadish,

Book cover of The Weight of Ink

Book description

WINNER OF A NATIONAL JEWISH BOOK AWARD A USA TODAY BESTSELLER "A gifted writer, astonishingly adept at nuance, narration, and the politics of passion."-Toni Morrison Set in London of the 1660s and of the early twenty-first century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable…

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Why read it?

8 authors picked The Weight of Ink as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This beautiful and skillfully written novel transports the reader into the world of a remarkable female emigrant in the 1660s who, along with her entire Jewish community, fled Inquisition-era Lisbon to Amsterdam and finally to London.

But her real journey is inward, a quest for knowledge and freedom while conforming to strict rules of both her own community and the surrounding society. The story is about a young Jewish woman, uprooted from her land of birth and clandestinely learning to read and write, skills forbidden to women. She pushes against many boundaries to embark on a passage of learning and…

From Cathy's list on to equip yourself for living abroad.

This immensely moving coming-of-age story and historical epic is about an elderly blind rabbi – a twice-displaced victim of the Portuguese Inquisition – and Esther, an orphaned Jewish girl, newly arrived from Amsterdam to plague-ridden London of the 1660s, who secretly becomes the rabbi’s student and scribe.

While finishing my own coming-of-age novel about a Jewish boy and his multiple mentors, it was particularly powerful to read this brilliantly realized character study of a young woman at an earlier inflection point in Jewish history, challenging her mentor and the greatest minds of the age.

The Weight of Ink is terrifically…

The story is set in London and alternates between two time periods, the mid-seventeenth century and the early twenty-first century.

In the 1660s, the plague ravages London and Sephadic Jews who had fled the Spanish Inquisition found themselves again blamed and stigmatized. And women in particular were denied scholarship of any form. However, Ester learns to read, translates for a blind rabbi, and grapples with a search for truth in an incredibly hostile environment.

In 2001, an aged British professor and her young American research assistant unexpectedly came upon Ester’s writings. Tensions simmer in both centuries and the suspenseful writing…

As a historical fiction writer, I am continually honing my ability to create characters wholly from the past, devoid of any trace of my modern perspective.

The Weight of Ink inspired me in this pursuit and gave me a beautiful model of how a writer can achieve that goal. The main character, Ester, doesn’t lash out at the men who control her or shrink meekly into her prescribed role as a passive woman.

Instead, she quietly and cleverly pursues what brings her the most joy: a rich life of the mind and heart.

The ending of this novel is one…

Ester Velasquez and Helen Watt are two women separated by 300 years and connected by a cache of hidden documents. Seventeenth-century Ester, scribe to a blind rabbi, embraces new ideas she encounters in the rabbi’s correspondence. She yearns for the freedom to debate philosophy with other learned minds rather than lose herself to husband and home. Helen is a contemporary British professor eager to unlock the mysterious scribe. Enter the fantastical world of quill and ink, Portuguese-Jewish refugees from the Inquisition, Restoration London, Black Death, intellectual controversies, and forbidden thought.

I love this book because of Kadish’s atmospheric writing…

From Bronwyn's list on fabulous femmes in fantastical settings.

If you love historical novels like I do, with dueling timelines, great characters, and plot lines, then, Rachel Kadish’s book’s for you. Like my book, there are two time periods, two protagonists, two competing plots, and two worlds. This juxtaposing keeps the reader on their toes while they are impatient to move from one timeline to the next while adding a further dimension to the storyline.

From Sherry's list on historical novels to get lost in.

Talk about your complex characters…this is a dual timeline historical fiction, with one story following a Jewish girl in 1660s London and the other following a prickly older woman in the modern-day city. Ester struggles to find her own agency against her family’s expectations and society’s strictures, while Helen fights to retain hers against colleagues in academia wanting her to retire and itching to steal her research turf, which includes a certain 1660s London neighborhood… With themes of desire, ambition, friendship, and dignity, this novel won its way into my heart with its characters’ burning desire to be seen and…

From Margaret's list on to hear forgotten voices of resistance.

The Weight of Ink is a sweeping, expansive story about two brilliant females: a young woman in the 1660s, who becomes the scribe to a blind rabbi and, through feats of great daring, a correspondent with the philosophers of the day;  and an aging historian in the 1990s, who fights to gain access to and analyse these correspondences. Kadish highlights how intellectual women of different centuries have coped with restrictions set upon them. 

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