Sunday, February 12, 2012
Book review: The Last Song by Eva Wiseman
Fourteen-year-old Isabel de Cardosa lives a privileged life as the only child of wealthy parents in Toledo, Spain in 1491. She lives in a nice house and has beautiful clothes. Her parents have always given her everything she wanted. But then everything changes. Her parents announce that she will be betrothed to Luis, a boy from a wealthy and respected family. Although Luis is her own age, Isabel hates him because he is cruel and selfish. She doesn’t understand why her parents, who always planned to choose a husband Isabel liked, would suddenly decide she must marry someone she hates.
Soon, Isabel learns the real reason for her parents’ decision. Although Isabel has been raised a devout Catholic, her family is Jewish. Her grandparents were forced to convert to save their lives, but her parents have continued to practice Jewish traditions in secret. Her parents hope that Isabel’s marriage to Luis will protect the family from the Inquisition, since Luis’s family is an old Catholic family. Isabel isn’t sure what to think at first. Curious about her heritage, she becomes friends with Yonah, a Jewish boy her age. Their friendship would be forbidden by her parents if they knew, because Yonah is openly Jewish and only the son of a craftsman. Soon her friendship with Yonah seems to be turning into something more, but then her father is arrested by the agents of the Inquisition. Isabel is desperate to find a way to save her father, no matter what the risks to herself.
I mainly wanted to read this book because it is about historical events not often written about in young adult fiction. Most historical fiction I have read with Jewish characters has been about either immigration to the United States (usually to New York City) or the Holocaust. While certainly those are very important topics, they are not the entirety of Jewish history. I love when young adult historical fiction explores events from history that are not frequently written about. Isabel, the main character of this book, is very brave and willing to do anything to save her family. The relationship between her and Yonah was very sweet and I would have liked to see it developed more, but perhaps that might not have been realistic given the historical setting. Although this book is about sad events, it’s not all depressing, it’s a very hopeful story too. I think readers who love young adult historical fiction but want to read something different than the typical book from this genre would enjoy this book.
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher.