The plight of the persecuted is the focus of Patricia O’Sullivan’s novel, Hope of Israel. Rooted in historical fact, the novel examines the lives of people forced to subvert their true natures and live behind masks of conformity. Along the journey, two unlikely protagonists, Domingo and Lucy discover a powerful bond, often threatened by misunderstandings, bigotry and religious hatred.
In 17thcentury Portugal, religious wrath destroys Domingo Lacerda’s boyhood innocence. He witnesses the execution of his brother Felipe, convicted of accusations against a Catholic priest. When Domingo returns to his home in Alfama, perched on a Lisbon’s hilltop, he learns of his parents’ intentions to flee the country for Brazil. At the same time in London, little Lucy Dunnington wonders at her mother’s behavior toward the doctor who has come to attend a delivery. Lucy also ponders how her family remains secret Catholic in Cromwell’s era.
Domingo’s family travels to Amsterdam, where the young man learns of his true heritage, while immersing himself among a new community. Later, he serves as an apprentice in London, and meets Lucy and her family. Grief and secrets culminate over several years, fostering a tenuous union. The couple takes grave risks to be together, before Domingo’s impetuousness and indecision interrupts their relationship. It seems too late for the lovers, as Lucy marries the cold, businesslike Edward Polestead and looks toward a future with him. Domingo faces several harsh choices, which force him to acknowledge his past. In doing so, has he ruined all hope of a life with Lucy?
I enjoyed the visceral emotion this novel evoked; pity arising from the brutal death of Domingo’s brother, and fear and worry about the remaining family facing the threat of discovery and religious persecution in Lisbon and England. Domingo’s emotionally fragile state and his bewildered attempts to adjust to drastic change also won my sympathy. Lucy emerges as the strongest of the pair; she never truly loses her convictions about her faith or her attachment to Domingo. Both find admirable qualities in each other, which bolster them through the most painful of trials.
While Lucy’s husband Edward remains aware of his wife’s devotion to Domingo, he uncharacteristically does not address it until a moment of crisis. Even for a man who could be as callous and detached as to abandon his family, his lack of confrontation with his wife seemed implausible. Also, there were a few instance of quick POV shifts within scenes that distracted me. None of these concerns seriously detracted from a richly detailed story of life and love enduring against impossible odds.