The story of Avram Halevi of Toledo, a late 14th-century Jewish doctor forced to convert to Christianity at the age of ten. He becomes a physician and surgeon in Montpellier and returns to the poor Jewish sector of his native city to live a dangerous professional life, serving the Christian rich. His relationship with the beautiful, ambitious Gabriela founders as his people are scattered in yet another attack by misguided Christian zealots.

His cousin, Antonio, is cruelly tortured and Halevi euthanizes him in prison. Escaping Toledo, he returns to Montpellier where he finds friends, a wife, a family, and eventually a professorship--but religious rivalry again intervenes through the brutality of a worldly cardinal. Try as he might to remain above the fray of religious and political struggles, Halevi is stripped of all he holds dear and dragged into controversy again because he senses what is morally right.


A romantic yarn, with vivid interludes of sex and fighting that at times border on pure sensationalism. However, the whole novel, or excerpts from it, can provide an evocative basis for discussion of some aspects of a distant medical past: the inquisition attacks against Jews prompted by plague; a Caesarian birth (chapter 1); the amputation of a limb and the death of a child (book 2, chapter 1 - 3).

Halevi's loyalties as a physician are often in conflict with his Jewish and Spanish roots. Written by a master storyteller, events of the alien and tricky cosmopolitan world of the late middle ages are strongly depicted, but the human drama of jealousy, love, and other passions seems strangely familiar.



Place Published

Harmondsworth UK



Page Count