Acts of Hope: Part 2 of The Inquisition Trilogy

Written by Martin Elsant
Review by Ilysa Magnus

In this sequel to Acts of Faith, author and Israeli radiologist Elsant creates a learned, stirring stand-alone novel about the Portuguese Inquisition and its sequels set in the 15th century.

Maria Lopes, the central, but not only significant, figure here, has been a New Christian in her homeland, rejecting her Jewishness to save herself and her family. When she flees to England, she has decided to immerse herself in her Jewish background while maintaining a Protestant facade. There she meets Dr. William Ames, a successful physician and an observant Jew only in the company of other Jews. Maria and William marry, and in so doing, Maria moves beyond her love of Ari, a devout Christian, who remains in her homeland.

As a successful businesswoman, Maria is asked to take on the lead role in transporting Jews out of Spain and Portugal to the new Jewish settlement of Tiberius. Not unpredictably, the paths of Maria and Ari, a pilgrim to the Holy Land, converge. As Maria works to save Jews from the Inquisitors, Ari has been compiling stories of devout Catholics who have escaped Iberia after being labeled as Protestants, their assets seized and their lives threatened. This was a shocking revelation to me—that Jews were not the Inquisitors’ only target.

Elsant’s novel is peopled with fascinating, compelling characters—including a Jewish pirate! Impeccable research about the atrocities of the Inquisition, political realities, and Jewish tradition fill these pages; the Author’s Note also provides some deep background. Other than the fact that I felt Elsant’s presentation often seems pedantic, this is an important read for those interested in the period. I look forward to the third installment.