“You may have forbidden yourself to hold a pencil or a brush,” Mlle Thibaux said, “but you can’t change the way your eyes distinguish hues where everyone else sees merely bland colors. You can’t change the fact that you watch the world from a perspective unavailable to others. You can’t change the nature of the dreams that come to you at night.”
After an arranged marriage and the birth of her children, Esther seems settled and content with the life chosen for her. But when she sails to Paris — to meet up with her husband who has been in Europe on business — the inner conflicts of her youth resurface.
Of course being the francophile that I am I loved the part of the book set in Paris the best; but it wasn’t only the setting that I loved reading. It’s probably a cliche but when she was in Paris, Esther – sheltered from the outside world essentially her whole life – was allowed to completely be herself, without any obligations to anyone but herself. Yes, she had doubts about whether her choices were right or proper, but she did them anyway and let the consequences fall where they may, and for that I have to admire her ability to develop such courage.
I did find the first part of the book a little dry, though I understand its necessity to the novel as a whole, and I probably needed a longer timeline to appreciate the novel’s epilogue; but otherwise I found Jerusalem Maiden to be enjoyable and an insightful look into Orthodox Jewish life in the early 1900s.