In London of the 1540's and 1550's, the Dudley family is pulling the strings for King Edward, a sickly teenager and only son of Henry VIII. Next in line for the throne is Mary, daughter of Henry and Katherine of Aragon.
Enter nine-year-old Hannah and her father, Oliver Green. They are Jewish refugees running from the Spanish Inquisition. Hannah has "the sight", a dangerous gift in times when women burned for far less.
In England the Greens live as Protestant Christians, practising their own religion in secret. Oliver is a scholar, printer and bookseller; Hannah works as his assistant and apprentice. She is betrothed to Daniel Carpenter, an English Jew and friend of the family, whom she is to marry at 16.
She is 14 and dresses as a boy when she is spotted by Lord Robert Dudley, whose father, the Earl of Leicester, is the most powerful man in England.
Hannah delivers the books Lord Robert had ordered to the court. There she meets the dying King Edward, who has been told about her and her gift of sight. He commands Hannah to become his fool and live at court. Hannah is terrified but neither she nor her father can do anything to help her. She then moves to court and is thrown into the turmoil of the huge royal household. The Dudleys order her to spy on everyone and tell them everything.
The review of this Book prepared by Sabine Schneider
Touchstone, 2004, 15.00, 500 pp.
In 1553 Hannah de Verde and her father flee Spain following the Inquisition which burned her mom at the stake for being Jewish. With the help of the Carpenters, they open up a London bookstore, changing their name to Greene. Their sponsors and the Greenes hide their Jewish traditions behind a Christian façade. Teens Hannah and Daniel Carpenter are betrothed to marry when she turns sixteen.
Scholar John Dee and Lord Robert Dudley arrive at the bookstore seeking books from the early ages of Christianity and Hebrew antiquity. Hannah, garbed in boy's clothing, mentions a third person with them that excites John as he realizes that God gave Hannah the gift of sight. She describes an angel.
Hannah delivers their purchases to Whitehall Palace. Robert introduces her to the ailing teen King Edward who names her his Holy Fool. She sees death lingering near Edward, but says nothing. Robert's father threatens to expose her and her father as Jews if she refuses the position. She accepts though Daniel is unhappy. Now her adventures amidst the royal intrigue begin over the next several years as Mary reigns.
The solid depiction of real 1553-1558 historical figures provide an in-depth look at an era of transition from an ailing King Edward through the short reign of Queen Mary to the point of ascension of Queen Elizabeth. That serves as a double edged sword as at times the storyseems to go tediously on. Hannah is a strong protagonist who enables the audience to look closely at the royals and some key aristocrats while depicting the plight of the Jews in Western Europe. Historical readers will devour this deep look at England's mid sixteenth century monarchy.
The review of this Book prepared by Harriet Klausner