Rashi’s Daughters: Book One, Joheved

Written by Maggie Anton
Review by Brad Eden

This novel centers on the life of Salomon Ben Isaac, known today as Rashi, and his three daughters. In 1068, Rashi returns to Troyes, France, from his studies in Germany to take over his family’s winemaking business. Known as the first scholar ever to write a Talmud commentary, Rashi secretly begins teaching his daughters the Talmud, a dangerous and heretical practice. If this were ever discovered by the Jewish community in Troyes, there would be dire consequences.

This first book in a trilogy focuses on Rashi’s eldest daughter, Joheved. The author has researched women’s lives in the Jewish environment of eleventh-century France and uses this knowledge to weave a fascinating story around Joheved’s passion for learning and knowledge, which she must keep hidden from her betrothed, Meir ben Samuel. Joheved is an especially astute learner, and she becomes quite knowledgeable in everything that she studies, whether it is the Talmud or winemaking or business practices. In the end, she must decide between her marriage and her true self.

The author does a wonderful job of weaving the drama around Joheved, but also of illustrating the complex relationships between three sisters and their parents. The reader is also given brief glimpses of Joheved’s sisters Miriam and Rachel/Belle, who will be the main characters in the two books to follow. As a tickler, a preview of book two, Miriam, is inserted at the end of this book.