These days, depending on who you speak to, religious intermarriage is either just part of normal life or has a hand in breaking down the various faiths. But for as many opinions on this subject that exist, there is one thing that cannot be disputed: it is not a new idea.
The Convert, written by Stefan Hertmans and translated by David McKay, was published last year. In eleventh century France, an unlikely couple has fallen in love. He is David Todros, the son of a prominent Jewish Rabbi and a yeshiva student. She is Vigdis Adelaïs, the daughter of a high ranking Christian family. In spite of the obstacles of faith, family and everything around them that is telling them to back off, they decide to get married. Vigdis converts to Judaism, giving up the life she had before she met David.
She expects that she her father will do everything in his power to bring her home. What she does not expect is an anti-Semiticpogrom and a journey that will take her halfway around the world before she returns to Europe.
Based on the Cairo Genizah, a group of documents and scrolls dating back more than a thousand years, this book is part fact and part fiction. What I liked was that the format is different than other novels in this genre. As we follow the characters on their respect journey, we travel with the author as he goes on a similar journey to put the pieces of the puzzle together. He is able to walk the fine line of using the information that is known while adding historical details that make the period come alive.
What I appreciate is that Vigdis is not the helpless damsel in distress type. She has experiences that could easily kill her. But she survives and is able to make it through a world that others her as both a woman and a Jew.
*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series The Nanny. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. There is no one like your pesky little brother. They have the ability to get under your skin as few can. They can also speak the truth about the family dynamic when others cannot.
On The Nanny, Brighton Sheffield (Benjamin Salisbury) is the middle child and only son of Broadway producer Maxwell Sheffield (Charles Shaughnessy). Bookended by an older sister, Maggie (Nicholle Tom) and a younger sister, Grace (Madeline Zima), he feels lost in the shuffle. Without his late mother to support him and his father working constantly, Brighton feels a little lost in the shuffle. When Fran Fine (Fran Drescher) is hired by Maxwell to be his children’s nanny, he is not sure about the new addition to the household. But he quickly warms up to her, looks up to her, and appreciates her down to earth perspective. He also loves to tease Maggie, as kid brother brother does. But what he gives she gives back ten fold.
Like many young boys, Brighton looks up to his father and is eager to follow is his father’s footsteps. He also has one eye on the girls. While his father approves, Fran does not approve. He also bonds with Fran’s mother and grandmother via a mutual love of Canasta. In later years, he becomes hysterical when anyone mentions his trust fund. At the end of the series Brighton chose to put off college for a year and become a mime in France.
To sum it up: What makes Brighton stand out is that he is the average kid brother. He looks up to his father, teases his older sister relentlessly, and has girls on the brain. He also has a big heart and knows that Fran is the female presence he needs as he grows up.