Book Review: The Books of Rachel by Joel Gross

August 3, 2020

The Books of Rachel by Joel Gross is a saga traversing centuries, following the Cuheno / Ha-Cohen / Cohen / Cohn family of diamond dealers, who pass a diamond to daughters all named Rachel. Mr. Gross is a writer, playwright and screenwriter.

  • 430 pages
  • Publisher: Seaview Books
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872235408

Book Review: The Books of Rachel by Joel Gross
My rating for The Books of Rachel – 4
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In The Books of Rachel by Joel Gross writes a series of short novellas all loosely connected through some sort of distant family relations, a name (Rachel), and a family heirloom in the form of a diamond which passes to the Rachels. The novel travels through Jewish history, at times when Jews were oppressed, as seen through the eyes of each Rachel.

I really liked the aspect of a family heirloom being passed down for generations, I didn’t enjoy the depiction of Jews as diamond traders across generations. Frankly, I have no idea if there are families who have been in the diamond business for generations, but in this book Jews are either rich diamond merchants or poor beggars.

I did enjoy much of the story, the last section bored me to be honest, and the historical references. While the author chose to err on the side of the narrative, that is sometimes expected from historical fiction. That being said, historical accuracy, for me, makes these types of stories much more enjoyable. Historical accuracy is what make a novel historical fiction rather than a fictional story taking place in the past.

The author does not shy away from describing atrocities during that his characters suffered, so those with a weak stomach are warned. However, those parts can easily be skipped so it’s not really a problem.

If all you know of Jewish history is the Bible or your World War II classes in school, this book attempts to fill in some of the gaps. The author also makes an excellent attempt to describe the lives of Jews in the past, including social hierarchy, traditions, as well as rituals. He doesn’t explain them, that was how things were and that’s that, maybe he tries to justify them as seen through the eyes of the people living them which I thought was a great addition to the story.

The novel fictionalizes 500 years of Jewish history from the 15th Century starting at a Jewish family being torn apart by the Spanish Inquisition to ones being destroyed by the Nazis. The first born daughter to the family is named Rachel, inheriting a precious heirloom in the form of a diamond.

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Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I bought this book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

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The Books of Rachel by Joel Gross


  • dbJuly 14, 2022 at 4:39 pm

    uh, jews are literally diamond traders across generations exactly as depicte din the book, go to antwerp and NYC right now and you can meet jews who have been in the trade for centuries. what a shallow and stupid and dissapointing review

    • Man of la BookJuly 14, 2022 at 4:59 pm

      There is more to the Jewish people than diamond traders or beggars, that was the point if you read the whole sentence and not just pick a phrase out of context. At least I don’t hide behind perceived Internet anonymity before spewing venom at others.

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