A long while back I was asked by Harper Collins to read and review The Jewel Trader of Pegu by Jeffrey Hantover. I was excited because it was already on my TBR list. I feel really bad that I haven't reviewed it earlier. It's quite an interesting novel.
Here's the plot:
It's 1598 and Abraham is a Jewish jewel and gem trader from Venice on his way to Pegu to buy and trade for his family. Pegu, now called Bago, is the capital of Burma (Myanmar) in Southeast Asia. In this exotic country, Abraham is faced with new people and new customs. Back in Venice, the Jewish people were forced into living in segregated ghettos and forced to wear certain clothing designating them as Jewish people (sounds vaguely familiar, doesn't it?).
Now in Pegu, he is treated as just another foreign trader. And foreigners are faced with interesting customs, such as this one: It's custom and an honor for brides to spend the first night with a foreigner.
As an upstanding Jewish man, Abraham is appalled. But his Pegu guide is appalled that he won't perform this honor for his people. Then Mya enters his life. Before she can become a wife she becomes a widow. And Mya shows Abraham that there may be things he's been missing from his life.
This was such an interesting novel. Abraham's story is written as a series of letters from Abraham to his cousin back in Venice. Interspersed are short chapters on Mya's thoughts. I thought this was a very personal and interesting way of presenting this story. My only problem is that I thought it was too short -- I wanted more! It made sense when I learned that the author, Jeffrey Hantover, is a cultural journalist. I felt that this novel worked more as a cultural study than a pure character driven novel. But I still liked it! Although, I do admit there were a few sections depicting some of the wedding night acts that made me blush and hope that no one was reading over my shoulder on the subway.
I love the books that have the P.S. section in them, such as this one. I learn so much and really enjoy reading the back-stories and extra information.
You can check out Jeffrey Hantover's website for his backstory to The Jewel Trader of Pegu as well as an excerpt.
**Thank you Danny at Harper-Collins for letting me read and review this book!
Also Reviewed by:
Devourer of Books