*This article is originally from the Fall/Winter edition of Prairie Book NOW magazine, with quotes from the author Eva Wiseman, copies of the magazine can be found for FREE in bookstores and Libraries across Western Canada, find the current edition online HERE.*
When people fantasize about periods of history that they wished they lived in, you will never hear anyone say they wished they lived during the bubonic plague. Winnipeg author Eva Wiseman’s novel takes place during fourteenth century France, where Jewish residents were being accused and prosecuted for poisoning the water supply. In this story we follow Natan, a Jewish son of a merchant, and Elena, the Christian daughter of the master draper. Natan and Elena fall in love, and have to keep it a secret as Christian and Jewish people do not intermingle like that.
While an unpleasant part of history, Wiseman believes the bubonic plague is an important part of history, and she is fascinated by how natural disasters like the plague impacted upon the lives of the people living in those times. “The plague was a critical moment
in history and in the history of the Jews. The events of this era also illustrated the courage and resilience of the Jewish people in face of tremendous adversity and I wanted to portray this.”
Natan is a gentle soul, and this is shown by poetry that he recites throughout the book, “His poetic side made him more believable and real. I hope that it brought him to life for my readers.” Tragedy strikes Natan, and he becomes an ibbur, someone who is righteous in spirit’s soul enters the body of living person temporarily so they can perform a religious duty which can only be accomplished in the flesh. In Natan’s case, it is to prove that the Jewish people in Strasbourg, France are not responsible for poisoning the water supply in the town.
While most of the characters in the novel are fictional, Wiseman included one historical figure in the novel, Peter Schwarber, in the novel “I included a real historical character for two reasons. First of all, a real character gives more veracity to the book which is a work of fiction. Secondly, the presence of Peter Schwarber emphasizes that even though the characters in the book are fictional, there were real people living through the horrors of the times of the bubonic plague.” The general events of the plague and the struggles in the town of Strasbourg are true to history, and while Wiseman (or anyone else) cannot say for a fact if an ibbur was present during all of this, the persecution of Jewish residents and the devastation of the plague are accurately depicted in this novel. The plague did not discriminate the way the residents of Strasbourg did, Christians and Jewish people died from the plague in astounding numbers.
While much of the focus on the novel centres around the bubonic plague and the struggles of the Jewish people in Strasbourg, Natan and Elena’s love is also put to the test, when Natan becomes the ibbur and occupies someone else’s body, Elena’s love for Natan is revleaved. Wiseman states that with the idea of the ibbur she was able to explore this thorny subject “I was also interested in why we love someone; is it because he or she is handsome or beautiful? Or is it because the object of our desire is kind and good?”
MY RATING: 5/5 stars – HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
Until next time,
EDIT: I heard from my editor today who spoke to Eva, and she sent me this:
I heard from Eva Wiseman today-she just got a chance to read your story
about Another Me, and I told her I would pass her comments on to you:
“I just read your review of Another Me and I LOVE IT! Thank you so much! You
really understood what I was trying to say.”
So way to go!”
I AM SCREAMING!