The Jewel Trader of Pegu by Jeffrey Hantover

The Jewel Trader of Pegu by Jeffrey HantoverThe Jewel Trader of Pegu by Jeffrey Hantover tells the story of Abraham, a young man from Venice who escapes the city’s ghetto and restrictions on its Jewish citizens in the fall of 1598. His work takes him to the Burmese kingdom of Pegu, which has a rather unique custom of asking foreign traders to deflower young brides (this, by the way, is historically accurate).

And so enters Mya, testing Abraham’s faith, good manners, and everything he believes in. Just when he thinks he has those things figured out, Pegu goes under siege, and he has to make even more difficult decisions, including whether to try to smuggle Mya to Venice, a crime that could lead to the deaths of many.

I think because of its switching narrative perspectives, it took me a while to get into this book; at about 75 pages in, though, I was hooked, and at that point, there was no stopping me.

For several days, I took Abraham and Mya everywhere with me. I couldn’t wait to find out what he was learning about himself, Judaism, Catholicism, Mya, and Pegu itself–and how he was expressing it in letters to his cousin Joseph back in Italy. And what was young Mya feeling, in this strange house with a foreign man?

The Jewel Trader of Pegu is an extensively researched and beautifully written book. It was surely a great challenge for Hantover to write from the alternating perspectives of Abraham, a 16th century Jew in Venice, and Mya, who is illiterate, but it didn’t show at all in the prose–and I consider that a sign of great writing.

If you like well-crafted, well-written, compelling stories that delve into cultural differences, historical customs, and the meaning of true love, The Jewel Trader of Pegu absolutely delivers.

It wasn’t a quick read for me as it had me stopping and thinking every few pages, and that’s part of why I enjoyed it so much.

I give this book four espresso cups out of five.

Be sure to check out Cherrye’s review of this book as well!

What are you reading this summer?


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21 Beans of Wisdom to “The Jewel Trader of Pegu by Jeffrey Hantover”
  1. 06.02.2009


    LORI’s last blog post..THE FUTURE OF EDUCATION

    So happy you found me, Lori 🙂 Hope to see more of you!

  2. 06.02.2009

    It sounds, from your description, like a book I could sacrifice other activities to read. Currently I’m read My life by Giacoma Casanova and am staring a much need vacation.
    Popped over from Scarlett’s FB page.

    rel’s last blog post..The Carpenters – Rainy Days And Mondays

    Thanks for coming over, Rel 🙂 Hope you enjoy the book!

  3. 06.02.2009

    Could be fabulous or tragic. I’ll trust you!

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Scallion Pancakes

    A bit of both, actually….

  4. rod

    in it to win it

    Best of luck, Rod!

  5. I’m seriously going to try this at my blog. Giving away a slightly used pair of socks to a random commenter!

    paul of the clue-by-four’s last blog post..reboot!

    I want photos before commenting….

  6. 06.02.2009

    Sounds like a reader to me! I’ll be leaving for Italy on Friday!!!

    Deb R’s last blog post..I’m a Day Dream Believer…

    Buon viaggio, Deb!

  7. 06.02.2009

    Sounds like an interesting book!

    As always, dreaming of Italy.

    Eric A. Stillwell’s last blog post..Talk:Komik Remaja

    Good luck, Eric 🙂

  8. sandra frykholm

    sounds like a read just up my alley. Thanks, Michele, for you great blog. I keep comimg back to it, a little italy in my day.

    Thanks so much, Sandra…and best of luck!

  9. Gil

    I just love books that are so interesting and good reading that I can’t put them down.

    Me too…just finished another (Marley & Me) 🙂

  10. 06.03.2009

    Man, I am such a sucker for historic fiction! This sounds like a good one.

    Vivi’s last blog months

    If you like historic fiction, you’ll definitely enjoy this 🙂

  11. 06.03.2009

    Like Vivi, I love historical fiction. I just wish I had some time to read…..

    Mary’s last blog post..What’s cooking?…Steak alla pizzaiola

    Unfortunately I’m too far away to help with that 😉

  12. 06.03.2009

    Sounds like good summer reading, typical fare for under the “ombrellone” (if I manage to get any ombrellone time this summer).

    Ooh best of luck in the drawing *and* on getting that ombrellone time!

  13. 06.03.2009

    This sounds fascinating. I tend to love well-told, cross-cultural stories in any case. Thanks for the lovely review.

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..What’s Cooking Wednesday: Variations on a Theme – Rhubarb, Part Deux

    I definitely think this is something you’d like, Jen 🙂

  14. 06.03.2009

    You’ve got me hooked-sounds like a great story! I love historical fiction.

  15. AKM

    Sounds interesting. I’m currently reading The Faith Club, about three women in post-9/11 NYc — one Christian, one Muslim, and one Jewish — and how they come together to learn about each others’ faiths.

    Ooh that sounds interesting….

  16. 06.03.2009

    Sounds like a great book. I love books that really take you somewhere. Right now I am re-reading Mansfield Park.

    Good for you, Nicole; I had trouble getting through Mansfield Park once. Maybe I’ll try it again this summer!

  17. angela

    seems like an awesome book from your review. i will definitely be putting it on my “must reads” list 🙂 right now i’m reading the twilight series and i’m on the last book. it’s been a great easy read but always love something new and this sounds exciting!!!

    I love fast and fun books too…I’d like to read more of the Twilight series (I’ve only read the first one so far and was kind of “eh” about it)….

  18. 06.03.2009

    I have been reading a lot, but can never remember the titles of books. I read a lot of murder mysteries. I have “The Life of Pi”, waiting to be read, which I borrowed from someone at work. I can’t seem to get started. I also have a sweater to finish knitting that I have been procrastinating about.

    Thanks for the recommendation of this book. I might check it out at the local library (pun intended).

    Thotlady’s last blog post..Sleeplessness

    I have trouble remembering authors for some reason…The Life of Pi (in Italian) has been sitting on my nightstand for years now. I can’t seem to start it either, but I had been blaming the Italian….

  19. 06.04.2009

    this looks like a fun read… Oh, I could stand a new book to read that is not in Italian… Here is to hoping you pick me!!! Hi from Near Avellino, Italy!!!

    celita’s last blog post..Meet My Snipping Friend, Snippety Gibbet…

    Best of luck, Celita, and great to “meet” you as well 🙂

  20. vanessa

    I am fresh out of english reading material, so i hope I win this book! Am almost finished the italian book I started um, errr, last year….

    Hah, I have an Italian book I’ve been “working” on for months now…just not inspired lately….

  21. 07.20.2009

    Great review. I loved this story and just reviewed it myself. With your permission I’d like to add a link to your review on my post, which is here:

    Thank you.
    I’d be honored, Sandra; thanks!

    .-= Sandra´s last blog ..What Are You Reading On Mondays? July 20 =-.



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