The ghost of a real-life historical figure helps elderly Catherine da Costa convince her granddaughters to travel across Europe with her and helps them find a link between past and present by leaving mysterious journal entries along their travel route.
I really liked how this book started out. Having the dual time lines and interacting stories was interesting. The story flowed well until the dinner in London and then the book just crashed for me. Catherine was a great character, as was Gracia Mendes. I did not like Catherine's granddaughters Suzanne and Francesca. I felt like they were whiny and not strong characters. I felt like their parts of the story dragged on and that they did not do anything to aid the plot. I felt like there could have been more action surrounding the search for the manuscript. The girls would start to look and then get caught up in romance and then poof - a piece of manuscript was found elsewhere.
Catherine has been told she only has a short time to live. She is sad that her two granddaughters don’t follow the families
A search for literary treasure should have been right up my alley. But detective work is not the point here. This book reads like a sermon- a racy one at points, but a sermon combined with a history lesson none the less. The moral of the entire story is to value family and religious tradition above all else, never marry outside the religion, and that women need to have children to carry the traditions on. I could have – maybe – tolerated this paean to motherhood above career if the book had been better. But it’s not. The characters never come to life. I actually kind of disliked both the granddaughters; they were caricatures. Catherine has more life than them, but is absent for most of the story. The men are too perfect to be real. In fact, the entire adventure is too perfect.
Hannah’s memoir is interspersed with the present day adventure, and it’s more interesting. Born in the Renaissance in a family of conversos, Jews who have converted to Catholicism. They haven’t, really; they continue to celebrate their traditions in private. This put them in terrible danger at this point of history, with the Inquisition going hard. At first Hannah seems to live an enchanted life, but it’s only a few years before things go bad. She rallies, however, and becomes a great heroine. She is a real, historical personage and I did enjoy learning about her, but even her part is told rather flatly.
It wasn't until after I finished the book and read the author's acknowledgments, that it dawned on me that Hannah (Gracia) Mendes was an actual historic figure who really lived. I googled to read more and found this part to be truly fascinating. I am happy that there has been a resurgence of sorts for her, that she won't, in fact, disappear into oblivion. She was an important figure who lived quite a life during horrific times, and left quite a legacy and she certainly deserves to be honoured and remembered.