Buddy read with explorewemily!
CW: child abuse, loss of a parent, and death of children
When I saw this was an option for a Book of the Month pick, I was a bit cautious because I wasn’t a fan of Novik’s Uprooted, even though I had heard good things about this book. In the end, I decided to pick it and I was pleasantly surprised by it!
This book follows the intertwined lives of three girls. Miryem, the daughter of a Jewish moneylender who is crafty and tough; Wanda, the daughter of an abusive father who is dying to find her own way in life; and Irina, the daughter of a duke who has no real choice in her destiny.
I want to say first that Jew is not a slur. So, when I say Jew I am not meaning it as a slur. It’s okay to call someone who is Jewish that, so long as you’re not meaning it in an offensive way. So, Miryem and her family are Jews. I just wanted to put that since I will be using that in my review. Believe me, when I took my first world religion class and my professor explained this, I wasn’t sure how to take it, but having taken a course on Judaism it’s really not a slur unless you’re really intending it to be one.
Right away, I realized that this was set in medieval times and, very quickly, I caught on that Miryem and her family were moneylenders. So, I thought to myself: “I bet they’re Jews.” Jewish people were barred from joining guilds or other professions by Christians, so they couldn’t really become skilled and advertise themselves in that way. So, moneylending was a viable option. Even though people hated them for it. Believe me, I’ve studied medieval Judaism and I can keep going about this, but I’ll stop. (I’ve even held a 15th-century Haggadah — the text they use in the Passover Seder dinners — and that was probably the coolest day of my life.)
I definitely wish that there had been more Jewish rituals in the book, but oh well.
Wanda was also such a strong character. I loved her and I thought that she was so amazing. I wish she had played a bigger role in the story. Irina was also amazing. Personally, I liked Miryem the best, but all three of the main characters were great.
However, I really wish that they had been the only perspectives in the book. It felt like nearly everyone had perspectives, which was even more annoying since this book was written all in first-person. And then the POV would switch to another character in the middle of a chapter at a break and I would have to figure out who was telling the story now.
While I could usually figure it out right away, multiple first-person POVs is one of my biggest book pet peeves. It definitely took away from my enjoyment since I didn’t want all of the shifts and I wanted a specific number of characters. They were usually distinguished well, but it still was an annoyance since every few pages someone new was writing and I had to backtrack to figure out who it was.
The plot also dragged. No matter how interesting the characters and the plot were, it also dragged. It was a bit too long and the story went a bit thin at times. Still, I liked it and it was tense most of the time, but I also thought a lot could have been cut out or changed.
Overall, this was a solid book and it makes me want to try Uprooted again!
What did you think of this book if you’ve read it?
What’s your favorite fairytale retelling?