Title: The Witch of Cologne
Author: Tobsha Learner
Publish Date: July 2005
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page count: 480 pages
Taking place in the 17th century Germania, this novel centers around Ruth bas Elazar Saul, a Jewish midwife and daughter of the chief Rabbi of Deutz, the Jewish ghetto outside of Cologne. Ruth, uncharacteristically headstrong as opposed to most women of the period, secretly studies philosophy and actually goes to Amsterdam to escape and arranged marriage, disguised as a boy to continue her studies. There, she acquires her knowledge and skill of midwifery, which she brings home. Word of her skill quickly travels and she is called upon, not only by the Jews, but by the Catholics of cologne. But, as word travels, word get to the Spanish Inquisition. Headed by Carlos Vicente Solitario, Ruth is arrested, long with several other members of Cologne and Deutz, and is accused of witchcraft. However, the reader learns that this prosecution is fueled by Solitario's obsession with Ruth's mother, Sara, who humiliated him years ago.
Through her imprisonment, her intelligence and will to survive, she makes a friend in Canon Detlef von Tennen, cousin to the Archbishop, who is helping in the investigation. The two fall passionately in love after her release, but soon learn a man full of hate and one without a heart, Solitario, should never be underestimated.
Full of religious quarrels, deceit, passion and betrayal, I found that I had a hard time putting this book down. At some points, I skipped paragraphs because Learner's attention to detail and I just wanted to know what happened, especially during the last half of the book. Some of the plot is slightly predictable, but that doesn't take away from how good it is in my opinion. Overall, I loved this book. I would give it a 4 out of 5.
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