4 out of 4 stars
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Dina´s Lost Tribe, a novel by Brigitte Goldstein, looks at the persecution of Jewish people through the stories of two women living centuries apart.
When Henner, a Jewish history professor, unexpectedly hears from his cousin Nina asking him to meet her in France, he has no idea what to expect. Nina, top of her field in gender studies, disappeared without a trace five years ago, severing all ties to her family. When Henner is reunited with her, not only is she no longer the vibrant young woman he remembers, she comes with an incredible historical artifact. She has found a codex, a letter written by Dina, a Jewish woman living in medieval times, to her sons. Henner, forced to flee Nazi persecution as a child, can see many similarities between his past and Dina´s, as she vividly illustrates her life as the town pariah.
While to historians this sort of contact with history is a veritable gold mine, it hides an even more important secret which Nina, and now Henner, are caught up in. Are they able to keep the origin of the codex, a Utopian society hidden deep in the mountains, a secret from the world, or will they be part of its destruction?
Written in first person from Henner´s view point, the reader is able to see the dilemma which Henner faces. He is divided between his scholarly appreciation of the chance to have firsthand contact with evidence from medieval times, and his overriding concern for his cousin. Henner is a well-balanced character with both strengths and weaknesses, which lends a realism and depth to the story. Nina is obviously a more headstrong, idealistic and emotional character, and the two of them complement each other very well. Dina is portrayed as an incredible woman struggling through one hardship after the next with both dignity and faith.
Set in America and France, the story travels through both distance and time. The book is set up to follow Henner and Nina, with areas set aside for Dina´s story. As someone with very little knowledge of Jewish history or religion, other than the holocaust, this was very interesting reading. The persecution of people for their faith and way of life has spanned centuries and this is illustrated well here, not only with the Jews, but with any group of people who don’t follow society’s perception of normal.
While this novel tackles heavy subjects of religion, war, and rape, the story was never depressing, in fact, there was an overall feeling of hope and solidarity in the face of adversity. The interludes of Dina´s story were vividly and eloquently detailed, almost unrealistically so for that era. However, even this aspect was explained in the story later on, which helped add to the realism.
Overall I enjoyed this book. It was well edited, the writing flow was smooth and easy to read, and the story itself was great. It was eye opening to learn more about a religion, as well as a period in history from Dina´s personal perspective. This was obviously a very well researched book and I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. I would highly recommend it to any who like Jewish history, the different aspects of faith and religion, as well as some mystery and intrigue.
Dina's Lost Tribe
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