“Jewish folklore tells of an angel who comes to whisper every last detail of the Torah to the baby in its mother’s womb, only to reappear in the split second before birth and awareness, to erase all the knowledge so easily won.”
The morning of her wedding, as has been the tradition in her family for many generations, Rachel Kane’s father hung the heirloom Cuheno diamond around her neck. And, just like the unborn babe, Rachel was flooded with the knowledge of the Rachels who had gone before her in the five hundred years since Judah Cuheno first cut it in the Spanish city of Zaragoza for his beloved sister Rachel, in 1484.
This book, which I first read in the early 1980’s, and was delighted to find in my local library (libraries are brilliant!) tells the stories of a series of amazing women over half a millennia. The women are generally privileged but strong, courageous and brave. Gross manages to effortlessly weave into the narratives a great deal of history, particularly the centuries of persecution to which Jews have been subjected, from the Inquisition of the fifteenth century to the Holocaust of the twentieth. This could be a berating, exhausting or cheerless task, but the result is a triumphant, empowering and overwhelmingly uplifting series of vignettes of hope. - Alex