Thursday, June 2, 2011

Jerusalem Maiden by Talia Carner

Title: Jerusalem Maiden
Author: Talia Carner

Genre: Fiction (Historical / early 20th century / Israeli / Jewish)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Paperbacks (5/31/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked very very much.
Did I finish?: Yes.
One-sentence summary: A young Haredi Jewish woman struggles with honoring her faith and honoring her artistic talents in early 20th century Jerusalem.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

Do I like the cover?: Yes, although I wish it featured a historical image of Jerusalem.

First line: Esther's hand raced over the paper as if the colored pencils might be snatched from her, the quivering inside her wild, foreign, thrilling.

Is... Carner's Jerusalem a lovely example of place-as-character?: YES. I absolutely felt the city and how it's various quarters affected and shaped much of Esther's story.

Did... I yearn to see Esther's paintings in real life?: YES.  Esther's art was inspired and influenced by the movements I love -- Impressionism, early Modernism -- and I eagerly imagined her contribution.

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow for sure, buy if you can -- this beautiful book begs slow reading and lending to friends.

Why did I get this book?: The setting -- Jerusalem -- and the era -- early 20th century and the topic -- a woman's challenge with her faith and her creative calling -- was too delicious sounding to resist!

Review: Having just finished this book, I'm still flailing (internally) and sort of waving my arms because I'm so caught up in the bittersweet ending and the story of the characters. This was a beautiful, moving novel.

The setting of this book was wholly alien to me and yet Carner's writing and brilliantly conceived characters plunged me into the story and Esther's world.  Esther might be one of the most moving and compelling heroines I've read in a long time: her complicated relationship with her faith, her God, her family, and her community was gripping.

The early 20th century was a tumultuous time in the world: the Ottoman Empire was crumbling, leaving residents of Jerusalem with famine, outbreaks of disease, conflict among the various communities, a loss of infrastructure; and later, World War I would cause further hardship. For the Esther's Haredi community, waiting for the coming of the Messiah, things are especially difficult, and she chafes at the life her family and her God has envisioned for her, one that, most tragically, requires her to give up her passion and talent in painting.

While this is such a sad story, I found it beautifully written and easy to read. Despite Esther's life being so unlike mine, her emotions and responses were so authentic, I could appreciate and relate to her and I cared so very, very much about how things would turn out for her. I think this would a fantastic book for discussion groups and book clubs, and anyone interested in novels about unusual faith communities. Or, frankly, any reader who wants to be caught up in a beautifully told story.

*** *** ***

GIVEAWAY!  I'm thrilled to offer one reader a copy of Jerusalem Maiden.  Just leave a comment with your email address.  Open to US/CA readers, closes 7/1.  For another entry, comment on my interview with Talia Carner.


  1. I am so glad that you liked this one! I have it up for review soon, and I am really looking forward to it. It sounds like it's going to be a great read, and I love that you describe it as bittersweet. Fantastic review!

  2. It sounds wonderful :) Even if I do not like sad, but I do think the era and setting sounds great. And I love great writing

  3. I always love to see that someone liked a book that I'm going to be reading very soon. It sure does sound like I'm going to like it as well. No need to enter me in the draw.

  4. I'd love to be entered for this book. This sounds like a book I would really enjoy. I love artistic characters....

    savvyverseandwit at gmail

  5. I was curious about this one; sounds good. Thanks for posting your thoughts.

  6. "Esther might be one of the most moving and compelling heroines I've read in a long time" - I love it when a character affects me so strongly so I think I'd really like this book simply because of Esther.

    Thanks for being on the tour. I'm thrilled that this turned out to be so good!

  7. Sounds like an amazing book. Please enter me.

    littleone AT shaw DOt ca

  8. This sounds amazing! I love emotional journeys that included faith. Thanks for the giveaway!


  9. All -- this, like When We Danced on Water is totally one of those books that I will continue to chew over -- it's such a fascinating premise and Esther is such an interesting character.

  10. I actually met Talia Carner last week, so I would love to win a copy of this book! I think it sounds great!


  11. I have not heard of this book but it sounds really good. Historical novels, :)

    lag110 at mchsi dot com

  12. Thanks for the review and giveaway! I think I saw this in Shelf Awareness and it looked interesting then, and even more so now that the art and historical aspects to it are explained a bit more.

    By the way, Island Beneath the Sea arrived today. :)

    susanna DOT pyatt AT student DOT rcsnc DOT org

  13. I had been considering this book but had to pass up reviewing it because of time constraints - now I will have to read it for sure. That time/place is also foreign to me as well but I love when the place becomes character. Thanks for this review!

    Please enter me for the giveaway!


  14. would enjoy reading this novel...thanks for the opportunity :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  15. I'd love a chance to win:

    bibliophilebythesea AT GMAIL dot com

  16. Would be interested in reading this. Thanks for the opportunity :)


  17. Would love to win this! I have a passion for historical fiction and middle eastern fiction (especially Jerusalem and Turkey).

    arcookson at yahoo dotcom

  18. I was hoping to hear you say you liked this book! Please throw my name in the hat!


  19. Looks different, the kind of different though :)


  20. this looks like an interesting read. thanks for the opportunity to win a copy!

    jen.mates AT gmail DOT com

    p.s. just found your blog and love it! (referred by Jennifer McMahon FB post)

  21. Me! Me! moirarussell AT gmail DOT com

  22. I love books with that give the reader a strong sense of place and time. Your review sounds wonderful! THanks for the offer.

  23. I am so glad that you reviewed this book. It sounds so good. I love to get in immersed in a time and place.


  24. This sounds fascinating! Please count me in. Thank you!

    nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

  25. I'm looking forward to reading JERUSALEM MAIDEN. I think that some of the saddest stories are the most rewarding. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

  26. This is on my wish list -- I love reading about this period in history and love books set outside of "western" cultures. Thanks so much for the chance to win a copy.

    geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

  27. I've got this one on my WishList as well...would love to read it!!

  28. I really enjoyed your review. This book sounds like a fascinating and worthwhile one to read. I appreciate the chance to win a copy!

    Thank you!

  29. Anxious to read this one.


  30. Thank you so much for your great review of JERUSALEM MAIDEN!

    I would also like to share with your followers the exciting book group promotions we have initiated: Groups that select JERUSALEM MAIDEN can participate in the drawings of unique gifts.

    1) A collectors' edition bottle of JERUSALEM MAIDEN wine grown in the Jerusalem mountains--and carrying the label of the book's cover art!
    2) A Holy Land religious package of three vials: Galilee anointment oil, holy water from the Jordan River, and stones from Jerusalem —for each attendee,
    3) An autographed copy of JERUSALEM MAIDEN.

    Please e-mail a photograph of your group holding their copies of the novel (Kindle screen is OK, too.)

    And of course, if my schedule permits, I'd be delighted to participate in the meeting over the phone. Please write to me via my website at .

    Either way, because of the social issues behind my writing, I always promise my readers a lively and thought-provoking discussion at the meeting.


    Talia Carner