Invite me and I will come! I love appearing at book clubs. They are a great way for me to connect with my readers and say thanks for buying my book. I have learned a lot from my readers and hope to learn plenty more. email@example.com
While I do not charge a speaker’s fee for my appearances I do ask book club members to purchase either or both of my books which are available through most local books stores, Amazon, Chapters Indigo, Kindle, Kobo or Barnes & Noble.
Topics for Discussion
1. How does Rich bring the worlds of sixteenth-century Venice and Malta to life, using the senses of sound, smell, and taste? What passages were most viscerally powerful for you?
2. Do you think the Conte’s love of his wife is genuine? Why or why not?
3. Rabbi Ibraiham warns Hannah that by choosing to save the life of her husband, she is endangering the life of the entire ghetto. (p 15) What do you think of this statement? Is she making the right choice? What would you do?
4. Discuss the uneasy truce between the Venetian Jews and Christians. Do you get a sense that the ghetto gates are there to keep the Jews in, or the Christians out?
5. As he is being auctioned, Isaac stands up to taunts, with the rationale that “He who tolerates insults invites injury.” (p 28) What do you think of this sentiment?
6. Sister Assunta offers Isaac a slice of apple as she attempts to coerce him into conversion. (p 62) Hannah inhales the scent of oranges in the bedclothes as a means of conjuring Isaac’s memory. (p 3) Discuss these and other passages in which Rich employs the symbolism of fruit.
7. Discuss the character of Sister Assunta. Did you feel she was a sympathetic character, or a villain, or something in between? Do you think her business deal with Isaac will succeed? Why or why not?
8. Who do you think is the wealthy benefactor who has collaborated with Rabbi Ibraiham to ransom Isaac, as long as he divorces Hannah?
9. Discuss the means by which Hannah and Isaac cling to their faith, despite the many temptations to convert. How are their approaches to the Jewish faith similar, in your opinion? How are they different, and why?
10. The title of the book, as well as the location, period, and other details (such as the character of Jessica) appear to be a spin on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. If you have read this play, discuss some of the ways Rich mines this literary territory.
11. When terrified about his escape, Isaac considers the words of the philosopher Maimonides: “The risk of a wrong decision is preferable to the terror of indecision.” (p 273) What do you think of this idea?
12. Hannah hangs the shadai around Matteo’s neck at his birth, as an amulet of protection. Does it ultimately work? If so, how?
13. What do you think the future holds for Hannah and her family?
14. Can you imagine this book translated into film? What details would you keep, and what would you change? If you were casting the film, what actors would you choose?