Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Grazia dei Rossi Series of books by Jacqueline Park

"If I were a queen, my son, I would grant you vast lands and great wealth. If I were a goddess, I would bestow upon you an honorable wife and a tribe of healthy children -- female as well as male. But I am a scholar and a scribe, so the best I have to offer you is a document." Opening Paragraph of The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi. 


The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi is a sweeping tale of intrigue and romance set in a time rife with court politics, papal chicanery, religious intolerance, and inviolable social rules. Grazia, private secretary to the world-renowned Isabella d'Este, is the daughter of an eminent Jewish banker, the wife of the pope's Jewish physician, and the lover of a Christian prince. In a "secret book," written as a legacy for her son, she records her struggles to choose between the seductions of the Christian world and a return to the family, traditions, and duties of her Jewish roots. As she re-creates Renaissance Italy in captivating detail, Jacqueline Park gives us a timeless portrait of a brave and brilliant woman trapped in an unforgiving, inflexible society.

"After a long and successful career in the service of the great andpowerful, Judah del Medigo was not surprised when out of the blue a courier arrived in Rome ordering him to report immediately to his new master, Suleiman the Magnificent, at Topkapi Palace in Istanbul." Opening Paragraph of The Legacy of Grazia dei Rossi 

Set in 16th-century Istanbul during the illustrious Ottoman Empire, The Legacy of Grazia dei Rossi chronicles the fate of Grazia’s son, Danilo, and his forbidden love affair with Princess Saida, the Sultan’s beloved daughter. Judah del Medigo, Jewish physician to the Sultan at the Ottoman court and husband of Grazia dei Rossi, has been misinformed that his son, Danilo, perished at sea on the way to Istanbul. When the two are eventually reunited, Judah’s first thought is to resign from the Sultan’s service to devote himself to his son’s recovery. But the Great Suleiman is not about to give up his valued Chief Body Physician. A ruler accustomed to getting his way, the Sultan proposes a bargain: he offers the boy a place in the harem school for royal children, plus the services of his own mother as guardian while the doctor is absent during campaign season in Baghdad. It is an opportunity that Judah cannot deny his son. A tantalizing look at life in the Ottoman court, The Legacy of Grazia dei Rossi is a sweeping historical romance and the long-awaited follow-up to the international sensation The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi. 

Review by Mirella Patzer

Finally! From international bestselling author, comes the sequel to The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi. I read and loved this book many years ago, and it was with great pleasure that I eagerly accepted both books to read and review. The most impressive thing of these two books is the meticulous research that Jacqueline Park did in order to write this wonderfully rich and comprehensive novel. She travelled throughout the country, researching not only the politics of 16th century Renaissance Italy, but church laws, Jewish history, fashion, food, and culture of the era. With such intensive research, she put together the story of a Jewish woman whose only legacy to her sole son is a book she wrote detailing her life. And what a sweeping story both books are! And there is a third book to come too!

I highly recommend that you read the books in order so that you have a clear knowledge and understanding of the characters and their interactions with each other. The second book, The Legacy of Grazia dei Rossi follows the lives of the heroine's son and father who have fled Jewish persecution in Italy to the safety of Turkey and the Ottoman empire. Both books come complete with glossaries and author's notes.

Both books give a realistic view of how Jews were vulnerable, how they were treated prejudiciously and unfairly, how they could lose all their posessions at the whim of others, and how life and death hung in the balance. Stirring, poignant, and beautifully told, I highly recommend this novel to those who love a good story while expecting the highest quality of historical detail. I eagerly await the third installment of the series, entitled Son of Two Fathers. A wonderful series to add to your historical library!

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