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Jephte's Daughter (Readers Guide Editions) [Paperback]

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Item description for Jephte's Daughter (Readers Guide Editions) by Naomi Ragen...

A modern classic of Jewish-American literature, a remarkable journey into the shrouded world of Chassidic women. Naomi Ragen's first novel has been called "one of the 100 most important" Jewish books. Abraham Ha-Levi is a wealthy American businessman and the last male survivor of an important Orthodox Jewish family. He decides it's time he finally honoured his religious and cultural inheritance and so forces his 18-year old daughter - the beautiful and intelligent Batsheva - into an arranged marriage. Her new husband is a devout Torah scholar who lives in Jerusalem. Batsheva finds herself plunged into a new life and a strange land, among people who follow their religious laws to the letter. Then she realises that her husband's piety is merely a mask for his cruelty. A magnificent book that builds up momentum compellingly

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Item Specifications...

Pages   450
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.3" Width: 5.5" Height: 1.1"
Weight:   1.1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 10, 2001
Publisher   Toby Press
ISBN  1902881508  
ISBN13  9781902881508  

Availability  0 units.

More About Naomi Ragen

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! NAOMI RAGEN is the author of eight novels, including several international bestsellers, and her weekly email columns on life in the Middle East are read by thousands of subscribers worldwide. An American, she has lived in Jerusalem for the past forty years and was voted one of the three most popular authors in Israel. Her books include Sotah, The Ghost of Hannah Mendes, and The Covenant.

Naomi Ragen currently resides in Jerusalem. Naomi Ragen was born in 1943.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Jephte's Daughter (Readers Guide Editions)?

Awkward Writing, Ridiculous Plot  May 16, 2007
I bought this book on a whim while in Israel, having forgot to pack anything to read on my vacation. Pluses: Ragen knows how to keep the plot moving, and the book provides some insight into the world of the ultra-orthodox. Minuses: Awkward, occasionally excrutiating writing, huge plot holes, and ridiculous (yet utterly predictable and telegraphed) plot twists. How huge are the holes? E.g., at some point the heroine decides to fake a suicide-murder of herself and her son. No bodies, of course, are ever found, but her extremely wealth father never bothers to look into things further. How do I know? Because the heroine winds up in England, assumedly using her own passport! How did she get to England without anyone realizing that the wealthy heiress of a great rabinnic dynasty traveled abroad on her (and her son's passport). Geez, all they had to do was check the airline manifest, or with immigration control. Basically, if you read this book and you are halfway intelligent, you will feel cheated. The good news is that if Ms. Ragen was able to develop into a respected, famous novelist, there is help for us all.
Jephte's Daughter  Jan 10, 2007
Compelling story within the Orthodox Jewish Community and the struggle to find one's place within.
a shining and affirmative thing  Jul 20, 2006
It is difficult to categorize this seductive first novelistic offering by Naomi Ragen.

Somewhat sheephishly, this middle-aged, white, male reviewer confesses its tones of over-written girly pop, an aspect that explains its being laid aside half-read for six months before it jumped back into my suitcase and lured me into a hungry, late-night series of readings to finish it. This element of Jephte's Daughter is most charitably explained as the work of an immature but promising novelist.

Then there is the tendency towards caricature, a trait placed in service of an almost Wellhausian disdain for ritual. This leveling of complex religious reality is used against both Jewish and Gentile denizens of Ragen's pages: for example, the preternaturally hateful Hassidic first husband of Ragen's heroine (Isaac ben Harshen) and the erstwhile Roman Catholic noviate who eventually gets the girl (the promisingly named David Hope). The key virtue of the latter protagonist is that he escapes all that churchly stuff that had him tied in knots.

Caricature also appears in the clumsy reconversion of David Hope from the Church's bosom to the heretofore secret Jewish identity of his deceased mother, though this may merely be the quibble of a Gentile and Christian reader who must acknowledge that stories of conversion that run in the opposite direction are rarely handled any better.

She has cast her academics in almost universally unfeeling and villainous form and located them in all the right places, Cambridge chief among them. I suppose it provides a convenient place for that.

Finally, there is the unblinking romanticism of the book, whereby the appeal of strong feeling and its culmination in the girl getting the guy--and vice versa--are granted a self-authenticating absoluteness without the need for further discussion.

So, if Ragen has written these several books within the cover of just one, how is that that this reviewer in the end finds himself strangely moved by the book and eager to move on now to the more mature Naomi Ragen?

'Difficult to say. I think the young novelist touched a vein. She has taken the measure of religious bigotry in several of its guises and offered something that seems compelling and real in its place, even if one wonders how the dazzling Batsheva and her David got along after the rains returned to Jerusalem and the drains clogged from time to time.

She has in the end told a good story, not with the character development of an accomplished novelist, but with enough justice that a chain of improbable sequences actually comes together as remotely plausible and--mirabile dictu--rather gripping.

One actually lays the book down feeling rather fond of Bathsheva and David, shaken by their odyssey, and wishing them well.

Only a novelist on the way to accomplishing her potential could have pulled that off for this grumpy old man. So let's give credit where it's due.
Book Covers and Reader Expectations  Jul 3, 2006
Jephte's Daughter is the story of Batsheva Ha-Levi, the last surviving descendant of a Hassidic dynasty nearly wiped out in the Holocaust. A dutiful Orthodox Jewish daughter, she marries the man her father chooses for her--a renowned scholar--and moves off to Jerusalem to begin a life with him with nothing but youthful and vague romantic notions and her deep Jewish faith to guide her. In the disastrous marriage that follows, both fail her for a time, but ultimately her faith sustains her and gives her the courage to save herself and her son, and while she outgrows youthful romantic ideals, she ultimately finds love in the end.

If I had bought Jephte's Daughter in the new edition, packaged as women's literary fiction in trade size with an abstract design on the cover, I probably would have been as disappointed as many of the readers reviewing it here were. Yes, the storyline is often silly and unbelievable. Some of the supporting characters and dialogue are almost unbearably cheesy.

But I read the original paperback version of the book, published in 1989. The mass market paperback features an exotic Jerusalem backdrop and a beautiful long haired woman in the foreground, gazing out with longing and determination, and the cover art and packaging show the books true origins: not an Oprah-style literary novel, but a romantic saga of the kind that was so popular in the 1980s, of the Belva Plain/Judith Krantz variety. Judged as a product of the 1980s women's fiction market and not that of the 2000s, Jephte's Daughter actually succeeds pretty well, meeting the conventions of those stories (fabulous wealth, family history, bad experiences with men before the right one emerges, a strong central female character) but departing from them into the interesting setting of the Orthodox Jewish world.

The parts of the book showing Batsheva's upbringing and life in Jerusalem are the best parts of the book. Ragen's love for the rituals and the learning that suffuse traditional Jewish life is evident in the details that she pours into this part of the book. Batsheva's husband and mother in law are cartoonish bad guys, but underneath the soap opera melodrama are real issues, as Orthodox women in Israel sometimes do find themselves trapped by tradition and mores in disastrous marriages with abusive husbands who refuse to give them divorces.

The book weakens when it leaves this setting, and the section set in England is cringeworthy in its depiction of goyish male lust and snobbish anti-semitism. Some of the dialogue is simply laughable. And the man who ultimately turns out to be Batsheva's true love is unbelievably perfect. But the story was suspenseful enough to keep me turning pages quickly, even if I did wince at some of the worst dialogue and skim over the purplest prose.

I can't wholeheartedly recommend the book, but I know that the author, Naomi Ragen, has continued to write books set in the world of Orthodox Jewry which is a setting that fascinates me, and I know that her recent books have been fairly well received, so I would definitely read more of her work. Taken as a dated 1980s novel and a first novel at that, it's not horrible, but it probably should have been left back in the 1980s rather than dusted off and repackaged for current day release.
shocking  Jan 29, 2006
As a Hassidic woman myself, I found this book to be far fetched and unrealistic. The storyline was actually humorous because it is so far from the realities that take place in our community. When you read this book, realize that Naomi Ragen is biased (perhaps because of a negative experience) and not giving an accurate depiction or correct portrayal of the Hassidic society.

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