Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Ninja Reviews... Puppet by Eva Wiseman

The myth of the blood libel might not be well known, but to the tiny, 19th century Hungarian village of Tisza-Eszlar the myth is causing real trouble.

The year is 1882 and Julie Vamosi is poor, like much of her village. She works at the local jail and takes care of her sick mother and her little sister Clara while her father works for one of the Jewish men in town. When Julie's friend Esther vanishes, the town looks for someone to blame and they invoke the blood libel - the sensational claim that the Jews need virgin, Christian blood to make their matzo bread.

The townspeople target two brothers to be witnesses, Sam and Morris Scharf. When they realize Sam is too young to be reliable they arrest a variety of Jews, including Morris' father, and emotionally and physically beat Morris until he "tells the truth" about what happened to Esther.

What follows is a vivid and aggravating account through Julie's perspective of the accusation and trial of a variety of Jewish townsfolk. Julie is a Christian girl whose mother harbors respect for the Jewish people, while her father hates them to his core. With the townspeople against the entire Jewish population in Tisza-Eszlar, will Morris have the strength to tell the truth? Will Julie find the courage to open up about what she knows?

This book is based on the true story of Morris Schaf, whose name is now synonymous with the word traitor in Hungary. Author Eva Wiseman painstakingly translated Hungarian court transcripts and the book written by defense lawyer Karl Eotvos to portray a realistic account in the novel. Read a 10 question interview with her here.

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