Why Read 'The Debt of Tamar'?

I received the ebook from Netgalley on the part of the author for book reviewing.

The story begins with a family Dona Antonia, Reyna and Jose-the Nisshim Dynasty- the revelation of their religion and their practicing it secretly. The successive events start with the Edict of Expulsion from Spain; leading to their successful escape from the hellhole, alive; the years in Istanbul, in the save haven of the Ottoman empire under the protection of Suleiman, the Magnificent and Osman Imperial dynasty; and the birth and life of Tamar in the harem and ‘the debt’.

The narration then moves to the present world, Turkey to the stories of Selim Osman, the last living descendant of the Osmans of Ottoman Empire, and Ayda. Part III tells the infamous tale of the Nazi rule and concentration camps through the life and fate of David Herzikova. Swiftly the chapters bring about the story of Hanna Herzikova and the ‘debt’ being paid back through her.

Nicole Dweck is a very competent writer. The tone of the entire novel is that of brooding and melancholy, though there are a few instances of happiness, family and fun. She chooses her sentences and phrases well. Not too lengthy not too short, just the right length able enough to convey the right messages. She writes in poetic prose, elevating the mood of the situation in just a few lines that are so profound in their meaning. Words like these impress me to no end. The story has four parts- plots from different ends of the world, faraway lands, and dynasties. It is not a fact paced novel, the action is slow, but reading one page can take you through a few days, hours or in some chapters, through years. Time leaps are there to cover the long story spanning generations. But it is also a factor that kept me engrossed throughout.

To quote one of my many favorite lines:
“Measured, dry of affectation or emotion, but mostly, they were tired words. Words aware of all that had come before them. Words aware of the quiet nothing that would soon follow. They were words for endings.”

The number of characters change- increase and decrease- but that doesn’t affect the book’s ease of reading- as all characters are, quite brilliantly, given their depth and gravity in just a few lines or paragraphs. They are all emotionally scarred, some broken and wounded physically too. Every character has a backstory, and a sad tale to tell. Just one chapter develops the character so much, that I instantly missed his presence in the following chapters, where he has no living role to play. I think that was the only thing about the book that dissatisfied me. That whenever I attached myself with a character of one generation, the author deftly managed to put an end to their unending tale and move on to the next generation. And towards the end of the book, I realized that the burden of the number of dead souls of previous generation and the history of glory and shame is so heavy on the present story, that the main characters seem to be the ghosts and curses of the past and not the living descendants.

The novel covers many aspects of life- love and loss. It questions the nature, the relevance of faith, religion and lineage; and the unreasonable brutality and hatred of a faction on the other. The book is inspired by real people and real events in history, and fifty percent is fictional. It’s a must read. I would recommend it to everyone who’s reading this.

I would give a 5/5 rating to the book.

Read the book blurb at Goodreads.


Queeristan by Parmesh Sahani

  Queeristan (Amazon Link) Thanks to Audible Free Trial I listened to this amazing non-fiction on LGBTQ inclusion in Indian workplaces. Author Parmesh Sahani identifies as gay Indian, working closely with Godrej higher management and employees for years to create an inclusive workplace, both legally and in spirit. This book is a result of those years of experience, research, collaboration with individuals from difference spectrum of the society and organizations who has successfully transitioned into a queer friendly one.   Indian history is inclusive. From the Khajuraho temple architectures, to Konark to the Rig Veda, there is existing proofs even 2000 years ago of Indian inclusiveness of queer. It’s the draconian British law that criminalised it, which was scraped in 2009, came into effect once again following a sad judgement in 2013 and eventually was scraped off for good in 2018. I am in awe of the lawyers who fought this legal battle- colleagues and partners – Arundhati Katju

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