Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Jewel Trader of Pegu-Jeffrey Hantover

The Jewel Trader of Pegu
Jeffrey Hantover
Morrow, Jan 2008, $21.95
ISBN: 9780061252709

In 1598 twenty-seven year old Jewish jewel peddler Abraham decides to leave Venice following the death of his wife. His family protests and pleads with him to stay in Venice as they worry about his sitting Shiva on a ship and living amidst gentiles eating non-kosher food. Still ignoring their soulful admonitions, he travels to Pegu, a Burmese kingdom where he opens up an extension of the family business back home by obtaining top of the line gems.

Abraham is pleased with his the results of his decision to leave Europe as he no longer is incarcerated in a ghetto; in Pegu, he can go where he wants when he wants. However, he soon learns that foreigners must perform a duty that will bring good fortune to new brides; failure to do so mean expulsion from the country, but that requirement violates Jewish scripture. He also has an attraction to local Mya, but doubts that love is strong enough to overcome their respective religions.

More a historical character study of predominately two protagonists, THE JEWEL TRADER OF PEGU is a fascinating look at a sixteenth century Jewish European living in an Asian kingdom; a stranger in a strange land. The story line is told mostly by his letters to his family in Venice, but also has interesting interludes that provide Mya’s perspective on some of the same events that Abraham describes. Limited in action; fans who appreciate a deep historical look into star-crossed lovers struggling with personal, religious and national differences.

Harriet Klausner

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