The Inquisitor’s Wife: A Nov­el of Renais­sance Spain

Jeanne Kalo­gridis
  • Review
By – February 14, 2014

The year 1481 and sub­se­quent years vio­lent­ly dev­as­tat­ed the Jew­ish popula­tion of Seville, Spain. Although Fer­di­nand and Isabel­la were sup­pos­ed­ly lenient toward Jews, con­ver­sos” (Jews bap­tized as Chris­tians but secret­ly prac­tic­ing Judaism), and cryp­to-Jews” (hid­den Jews), the Catholic monas­tic orders con­vinced the King and Queen to weed out false Chris­tians in order to puri­fy” Spain of evil. The monar­chy reluc­tant­ly agreed to allow the Inqui­si­tion to com­mence but insist­ed on (sup­posed) fair­ness to all accused.

Marisol Gar­cia, the hero­ine of The Inquisi­tor’s Wife, moves through sev­er­al cycles of thoughts and emo­tions about her Juda­ic back­ground with­in the nov­el. The first time she sees an elder­ly Jew­ish man beat­en and hears the tor­menters insult her for try­ing to get them to stop, she is hor­ri­fied and real­izes the for­mi­da­ble foe she is con­fronting. In fear, she rebels by reject­ing the secret prayers and can­dle light­ing on Fri­day night that she for­mer­ly shared with her moth­er. When the Inqui­si­tion inter­ro­ga­tions begin, Marisol’s moth­er com­mits a des­per­ate act that changes Marisol for­ev­er. Her father forces her to mar­ry an Old Chris­t­ian,” hop­ing that will pro­tect his beloved daugh­ter, in spite of the fact that she must for­sake an old love and hates her new husband.

The remain­der of the nov­el is about sex, mon­ey, and pow­er and how Marisol is being used by her new fam­i­ly to help those con­duct­ing the Inqui­si­tion tri­als. The infa­mous Torque­ma­da and his assis­tants are clear­ly depict­ed in the feroc­i­ty of their judg­ment and their hid­den moti­va­tion of acquir­ing wealth and pow­er. The crises that fol­low pro­vide riv­et­ing read­ing and ulti­mate­ly lead to a most unex­pect­ed end­ing. Marisol, with great beau­ty and dig­ni­ty, endures and sur­mounts the worst that evil can dole out. The Inquisitor’s Wife is a lit­er­ate, well-craft­ed work of his­tor­i­cal fiction.

Relat­ed Con­tent: Cryp­to-Judaism and Con­ver­sos Read­ing List

Deb­o­rah Schoen­e­man, is a for­mer Eng­lish teacher/​Writing Across the Cur­ricu­lum Cen­ter Coor­di­na­tor at North Shore Hebrew Acad­e­my High School and coed­i­tor of Mod­ern Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture: A Library of Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism, Vol. VI, pub­lished in 1997.

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