Friday 13 January 2012

INCANTATION by Alice Hoffman

Estrella deMadrigal thought she knew herself: daughter, granddaughter, sister, dearest friend, beloved. She is Star in the Night Sky, Truth in the Darkness. But truth is rare and precious in this cruel and unforgiving century in Spain, when Jews who refused conversion to Christianity risked everything - love, life, family, faith.

Then: A startling discovery shakes Estrella's world to the core. And yet, it is something small and sweet that sets it aflame. A kiss. A kiss from someone she is forbidden to love.

As a new girl emerges from the cocoon of secrets in which she has been shrouded, passion burns and friendship crumbles - and betrayal unleashes a monstrous evil from the very deepest part of the earth. Estrella crosses over to a place she never thought she could be; she is someone she never could have imagined.

Remember the story she is about to tell you.

I started this book yesterday morning and finished it by the evening. It's not a long book, but it is a very heavy and emotional story. From the beginning, I knew I was going to be swept away into a very dark time in Spanish history. A time that always angers and saddens me so much.

And I was right. I felt every bit of Estrella's narration, very deeply.

Estrella and her neighbour, Catalina, have been best friends since they were babies.  Estrella always likes to say that they look like sisters, and even had similar pet names when they were little--Estrella was Raven, and Catalina was Crow.They do everything together, but when they're both sixteen years old, a great evil comes to their town. In the form of the inquisition.

It all starts with the burning books of a Jewish man who lives behind the gated part of town, where all the Jews who refuse to renounce their belief live. Then it becomes a physical threat as Estrella watches her neighbours being taken away to be judged guilt without a fair trial. After this, she starts to realise something about her own family. Little things, actions, and rituals she's known all of her life soon start making sense.

Estrella and her family aren't who she always thought they were. And because she falls in love with her best friend's cousin--the boy Catalina is suppose to marry--Catalina's true self comes through. In the process, she causes Estrella's family a very unfair and painful conclusion. It's amazing what jealousy can do to a person.

This book made me so sad. It's haunting and beautifully written, in a way that gets deep into your soul until you feel like all you want to do is cry. I loved it. I loved Estrella and her family, so when everything comes together, I felt it deeply. :(

The subject matter is very dark, but I found Esther to be a shining star...        

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