Wednesday, May 31, 2017
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Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover & eBook; 576 Pages
An intellectual and emotional jigsaw puzzle of a novel for readers of A. S. Byatt’s Possession and Geraldine Brooks’s People of the Book.
Set in London of the 1660s and of the early twenty-first century, The Weight of Ink is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect: Ester Velasquez, an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city; and Helen Watt, an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history.
As the novel opens, Helen has been summoned by a former student to view a cache of seventeenth-century Jewish documents newly discovered in his home during a renovation. Enlisting the help of Aaron Levy, an American graduate student as impatient as he is charming, and in a race with another fast-moving team of historians, Helen embarks on one last project: to determine the identity of the documents’ scribe, the elusive “Aleph.”
Electrifying and ambitious, sweeping in scope and intimate in tone, The Weight of Ink is a sophisticated work of historical fiction about women separated by centuries, and the choices and sacrifices they must make in order to reconcile the life of the heart and mind.
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Praise for The Weight of Ink
“A gifted writer, astonishingly adept at nuance, narration, and the politics of passion.” —Toni Morrison
“This astonishing third novel from Kadish introduces readers to the 17th-century Anglo-Jewish world with not only excellent scholarship but also fine storytelling. The riveting narrative and well-honed characters will earn a place in readers’ hearts.” —Library Journal, starred review
“Like A.S. Byatt’s Possession and Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, this emotionally rewarding novel follows […] present-day academics trying to make sense of a mystery from the past…Vivid and memorable.” —Publishers Weekly
“A mysterious collection of papers hidden in a historic London home sends two scholars of Jewish history on an unforgettable quest….Kadish’s characters are memorable, and we’re treated to a host of them: pious rabbis and ribald actors, socialites and troubled young men, Mossad agents and rule-worshipping archivists. From Shakespeare’s Dark Lady to Spinoza’s philosophical heresies, Kadish leaves no stone unturned in this moving historical epic. Chock-full of rich detail and literary intrigue.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Kadish positions two women born centuries apart yet united by a thirst for knowledge at the core of a richly textured, addictive novel stretching back and forth through time, from contemporary London to the late seventeenth century….Kadish has fashioned a suspenseful literary tale that serves as a compelling tribute to women across the centuries committed to living, breathing, and celebrating the life of the mind.” —Booklist
“The Weight of Ink is the best kind of quest novel—full of suspense, surprises and characters we care passionately about. How thrilling it is to watch the imperious Helen and the scholarly Aaron turn into brilliant literary detectives as they uncover the identity of a woman who lived more than 300 years ago, and how thrilling it is to get to know that woman intimately in her own time. A beautiful, intelligent and utterly absorbing novel.” —Margot Livesey, author of Mercury
“Rachel Kadish draws us deep inside the vivid, rarely-seen world of 17th century Jewish London, conjuring the life and legacy of an extraordinary woman with an insatiable hunger for knowledge and education. A vital testament to the importance of books and ideas, The Weight of Ink unfolds like a revelation.” —Kate Manning, author of My Notorious Life
“From its opening pages The Weight of Ink signals its reverence for words, both those from which the narrative is constructed and those which lie at the heart of its story—for this a novel about the importance of words: written and spoken, historical and contemporary, hidden away and brought to light. Rachel Kadish has fashioned a literary mystery spanning centuries, continents and languages; a mystery of great moral stakes and elemental human desires.” —Leah Hager Cohen, author of No Book but the World
“The Weight of Ink tells of the struggle and the triumph of a woman trying to do justice to the largeness of her intellect and ambition. As audacious in its conception as it is brilliant in its execution.” —Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away
“Rarely have I read a contemporary novel that so immersed me in its world and drew me so deeply into the lives of its characters. Rachel Kadish is a brilliant story-teller, with a mystery writer’s instinct for pacing and a willingness to take on the largest human questions. The Weight of Ink is astonishing.” —Carol Gilligan, author of In a Different Voice
Rachel Kadish is the author of the novels From a Sealed Room and Tolstoy Lied: a Love Story, and the novella I Was Here.
Her work has been read on National Public Radio and has appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, Zoetrope, Ploughshares, The Gettysburg Review, Poets & Writers, Bomb, and elsewhere, and has been anthologized in the Pushcart Prize Anthology.
She has been a fiction fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and of the Massachusetts Cultural Council as well as a resident at the Yaddo and MacDowell colonies. She has received both the John Gardner Fiction Award and the Koret Foundation’s Young Writer on Jewish Themes award, and was a writer-in-residence at Stanford University.
She lives outside Boston, where she teaches in Lesley University’s MFA program in Creative Writing. She is at work on a novel set in 17th Century London.