Fourth Book in the 100+ Reading Challenge
The Romance Reader
by Pearl Abraham
Inner front cover: Rachel Benjamin lives in an insular environment, protected by her family from the temptations and freedom the modern world offers. As the rabbi's eldest daughter, Rachel is expected to set a moral example for her brothers and sisters and for the community: she must wear thick tights with seams; she must never wear a bathing suit in public; she is not to read books in English.
But Rachel does read forbidden books: she reads the books of Barbara Cartland, Victoria Holt and Charlotte Brontë, paperbacks bought with babysitting money or stolen from the supermarket or borrowed from the library that she has been forbidden to join. She starts to wear sheet stockings and to take classes to become a lifeguard. She craves independence but does not know how best to achieve it. As the prospect of an arranged marriage draws nearer, Rachel is torn between the opportunity it offers to leave her family and the realization that it is not a genuine escape.
Another library book. I picked it because I though the title sounded promising, like maybe it would give me more ideas for books to read, as if I need any!
The book is about Rachel and her life as a teenager as a Hasidic Jew. She wants to be more independent than what she is, and she always finds new ways to "rebel". Rachel basically seems like any other teenager: the hating of parents, and rule-breaking. I could kind of sympathize with her through most of the book, but not at all in some places, and not just because of our difference in upbringing.
My favorite part of the book was when the mother and father went away for a while. It was kind of exciting to see what would happen, and I was nervous all the time that something bad would happen, and at the same time I was looking forward to reading what would happen when the parents came back.
I don't really know much about the different types of Jews. I think at school we've learned more about the general religious views, and about Jews during the Second World War, and not much else. So it was interesting to read about this world I don't know anything about. I didn't know what a lot of the Jewish words meant, and since I read a lot of the book in my lunch breaks at work, I couldn't really look them up, but I understood most of them from the context, and some others I looked up online when I got home.
The book was okay. It was interesting to read about a different way of living, but it wasn't so exciting that it held my attention. For such a small book (296 pages) it took me a long time to finish, because whenever I put it down I wasn't in a "hurry" to pick it back up again to find out what happened next.