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Publisher's Summary

Set in the London of the 1660s and of the early 21st century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect: Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi just before the plague hits the city, and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history.

As the novel opens, Helen has been summoned by a former student to view a cache of 17th-century Jewish documents newly discovered in his home during a renovation. Enlisting the help of Aaron Levy, an American graduate student as impatient as he is charming, and in a race with another fast-moving team of historians, Helen embarks on one last project: to determine the identity of the documents' scribe, the elusive "Aleph".

Electrifying and ambitious, sweeping in scope and intimate in tone, The Weight of Ink is a sophisticated work of historical fiction about women separated by centuries, and the choices and sacrifices they must make in order reconcile the life of the heart and mind.

©2017 Rachel Kadish (P)2017 HighBridge, a Division of Recorded Books

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Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Compelling characters question life choices, ethics, religious rules, love and desire

I have listened to this book twice, and will probably listen to it again because I am still learning about the characters. There are three main subjects: an aging professor of 17th century Jewish history, a PHD student starting a dissertation about Shakespeare and his Jewish characters, and a 17th century Portuguese scribe who is the focus of their study. The history scholars discover a cache of documents that provide new insights into the lives of Jews in the last half of turbulent 17th century London. Each of the protagonists faces personal turning points, and has to navigate family history, gender expectations, self doubt, and cultural prejudice and must construct a way forward. I found the 17th century and 21st century history fascinating, ranging from Portugal to Amsterdam to London, and from Israel to London. The writing is dense and rewards rereading. The author gives several examples of strong women and good men, enhancing the novel with characters who add perspective and nuance to the histories. These include a Portuguese servant, real philosophers, a kind and learned rabbi, hide bound rabbis, a Christian playboy and actor, a gay man forced into naval service by his father, young and old librarians, and rival academics, among others.

76 of 77 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Excellent story, writing, characters-everything you want in a big novel

Rachel Kaddish has fulfilled an experienced reader's highest wishes for a very satisfying novel. She has done a remarkable lot of research about life in London in the 1600,, the fate of some Jewish families and rabbis and philosophical writings, and English academic life in the 21st century. Also, she has imagined characters that hold interest in themselves. We go between these different times like a good mystery. But this is a full- bodied novel. Every time I had to put it down, I wanted to go back to it. I first saw this book in a bookstore. I was attracted to the title and to the cover. I hadn't heard of the author nor of the book, but I knew I wanted to read it. I am so very glad I did. Among much else it does, it shines light on the importance of our need to continue to make the world a free, safe place for all women to have equality.

44 of 45 people found this review helpful

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  • Mare99
  • South Ogden, UT
  • 02-10-18

An intelligent and textured novel

What made the experience of listening to The Weight of Ink the most enjoyable?

The expression of complex ideas in exquisite language was thrilling. I do not say this lightly. Many times I wished I were reading this book in hardcover so I could copy out passages to read again. This is not only about Judiasm and its expression in different historical periods, it is about ideas that still shape the time we are living in, showing some of the sacrifices that were made so we could think and live more freely. It weaves thinking about women, men, motherhood, responsibility, and enduring values and the sacrifices that have been made to both change and preserve them. It is strongly about women having a voice and making choices that are not bound by cultural norms of household and family, either in society or in a religious institution. You do not have to be Jewish to appreciate the struggle of Jews throughout history. You do not have to be a woman to appreciate the evolution of thought that changed attitudes. I lack the eloquence to do justice to this mind- and soul-satisfying novel.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Weight of Ink?

The effects of the plague on individuals in 1700s England was described better here than in anything else I have read. I learned a lot from Geraldine Brooks' Years of Wonder: A Novel of the Plague, but this book brought the fear and tribulations of that time more acutely into the personal. Perhaps I gained this extra insight because I was listening rather than reading, but I don't think entirely so; the scenes will stay with me.

What about Corrie James’s performance did you like?

Corrie Jame's performance was perfect for this novel. She was able to subtly alter the voices across characters and across time. Her narration supplemented the novel and did not distract.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When Esther offers to marry the homosexual son of the rich London Jew so shame would not have to come on his household and, in exchange, she could be protected.

Any additional comments?

One of the best books I have read. As other reviewers will mention, this is not a light or easy novel, but for the reader who likes learning and beautiful writing, this is one for you.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Patricia
  • Oak Harbor, WA, United States
  • 09-10-17

A WOW Book

I love books that capture my mind and heart. I fell in love with Esther - a woman of my own spirit but in 17th century England as a brilliant exiled Sephardic Jewish woman. learned a lot about that time in history and enjoyed the ohilosiohical- theological musings.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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immaculate

Beautifully written, skillfully narrated, just fascinating. I can't wait to hear more from Rachel Kadish

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • Deanna
  • United States
  • 08-15-17

gorgeous!

beautiful, gorgeous, stirring, lovely!

Imaginative, beautiful storytelling, connecting complex human stories across centuries. Engaging, inspiringly flawed characters living lives of desparation, ambition, and hope. Loved it, hope for more of the same from this author.

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Stick with It and You Will be Rewarded

I had a very hard time getting into this book, partly because of the writing style and partly because of the narrator's struggle with an American accent. I spent the first 10 hours debating whether to return it. I started another book but eventually went back to it. About half way thought I really started to enjoy it. It turned out to be a very interesting story, although I definitely enjoyed parts about the 17th century the best. But that could have more to do with the narrator's struggle to replicate a male American accent - it was so painful to listen to that I hated the character more than I think I should have.

As some have mentioned, there are some overwrought and unnecessary descriptions and side plots that tested my patience. But I feel like I really learned a lot from the book and at the end it was a satisfying story.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Fascinating story, well written

Well researched, beautifully written historical novel with a twist. Characters and locations spring to life from the first pages. Difficult to put down.

38 of 40 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A Powerful, Riveting, Well-Researched Story!

What did you like best about this story?

The book zig-zags backwards and forwards between the late 17th century and the first years of the present century, carrying with it the stories of its separate well-drawn and empathetic characters who draw the reader in and present a panorama of life, love, God, desire, personal expectation, struggle and fulfillment. The narrative technique which relies heavily on letters works further to bring the story and characters to life.

Any additional comments?

Excellent Narration by Corrie James!

25 of 26 people found this review helpful

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Totally takes you into the story.

What did you love best about The Weight of Ink?

I have been on Audible for over 20 years and this is the very first time I was so involved in a book that I wanted to write a review. This is two interlaced stories far in the past and one current. You will time travel back and forth between the two, both equally involved. Just excellent read. Finished over a week ago and still thinking of the people I meet in this book.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful