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beauty queen of jerusalem book coverReviewed by Meredith Kelly

While reading The Beauty Queen Of Jerusalem, I became totally engrossed in the Sephardi life and its regional colloquialisms. The interesting details about the colonization of Israel that you do not usually find in other books made for an exciting history lesson.

Member of the Ermoza family, the protagonists of this book, originally found their way from Spain during the early 1500s, coming to the “promised land” after the inquisition. They settled in their own secular society and were very distrustful of others, including fellow Jews such as the Ashkenazis from Eastern Europe.

In a society where women’s voices were rarely heard this was a book of strong female figures. Author Sarit Yishai-Levi describes generations of family life amidst a “curse” that seems to affect the men’s lives in a way that was detrimental to the women and made for a difficult relationship among Great Grandma Mercada, Grandma Rosa, Luna, her daughter, and Gabriela, Luna’s daughter.

Luna was the beauty of the family–hence the title of the book. Even as a new born the sun rose and set upon her in the eyes of her father. She could do no wrong in his opinion and growing up used it often to infuriate her mother.

Luna’s world was made up of glamour and Hollywood movie stars and one day she hoped to be discovered. She never lifted a hand to help the family especially during its hardest times and grew up knowing that her beauty would get her to higher places and the man of her dreams. Like the rest of the Ermoza women, she did marry well but soon discovered that her husband’s heart belonged to another woman, perpetrating the “curses” of her grandfather and father.

This was a beguiling book set against the backdrop of Israel’s and the Ermoza family’s glory and struggles. It was a fast paced and interesting read about the Arabs, Turks, and the Jewish settlers’ relations. I would highly recommend this book as an interesting and dazzling read.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Meredith has been an avid reader since childhood and loves to talk about books. A bit of a Luddite, she has only recently become acquainted with E-Reading and online book reviews. She finds exposure to such a wide audience of opinion on books fascinating.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Thomas Dunne Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.