Incantation by Alice Hoffman

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Incantation by Alice Hoffman

Sometimes, when I'm looking around in a bookstore (or even the book section of Target), I'll write down authors names or partial titles on whatever I can find to write on. (sometimes, I'll even write text messages on my phone and save them if I don't have a pen)

I find these slips of paper weeks (or months) later and I have absolutely no idea what they mean. A couple of months ago, I found one on my desk that said Alice Hoffman. I'm sure I saw one of her books somewhere and thought it looked interesting, so, when I saw that she had a new book coming out, and that it was historical fiction, about Spain,* I knew I just had to read it.

And it was an absolutely beautiful little book, and very powerful, despite its brevity.

First of all, a little historical background -- in 1492, not only did Columbus sail the ocean blue, but Isabella and Ferdinand, los Reinos Catolicos (or Catholic Monarchs), united all of Spain under a Catholic government, expelling both the Moors (or Muslims), and the Jews. However, many people of both religions stayed in Spain (where they had lived for centuries -- the first Muslims having arrived in 711), and converted to Christianity (or pretended to). The Muslims who converted were called Moriscos, and the Jews, Marranos.

Incantation is the story of the Marranos and their suffering during the Spanish Inquisition. It is also the story of Estella, a 16 year old girl, of her discovery of her true heritage, and of her first love.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction -- with one caveat -- one review I read somewhere (at this point, I have no idea where), the reviewer recommended this for elementary school or middle school, but I would have to say that while it is not too difficult to read, it is probably too dark for most elementary school students. (I know it would have been too dark for me... I mean it's been twelve years since I read Bridge to Terabithia, and I still haven't forgiven Katherine Patterson for the ending!)

*Spain-- I majored in Hispanic Studies, spent a summer in Spain, and I wrote my honors thesis on Spanish Historical Fiction for children -- so this is sort of an obsession of mine.

This is also why I find it really hard to write about the "Inquisition." I keep wanting to write "inquisición".


Jackie said...

Holy cow! Someone said this was ok for elementary?! That's crazy. Nightmares, for sure. Heck, I had a bit of a recovery period after reading it.

sher said...

Everyone should read this book. Wait, lemme rephrase that. Everyone who understands the words written in this book are mature enough to read it. It's disturbing, but only because it's very possible this happened. Incantation... yeah, I'm surprised it's not more famous. One of the best books I've read.

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