Apr 10, 2012

The Last Song

The Last Song (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Eva Wiseman

Published by: Tundra Books

Published on: April 10, 2012

Ages: 12+

Provided by the publisher for review through NetGalley

This book describes the experiences of a fictional 15-year old girl who was raised as a Catholic in 15th century, but whose world is rocked when it is revealed to her that she is of Jewish descent. This is the time of the Spanish Inquisition, and it was a lot worse than Monty Python sketches suggest. Isabel's family are conversos, New Christians to the outside world, but she knows nothing but the mass she grew up with.  She is spurred to a search for belonging and researches Judaism, as all she knows of it are the charges put forth by the familiars of the Spanish Inquisition. Of course, for Isabel the biggest motivator is her fascination with the Jewish goldsmith's son, Yonah, typical of a 15-year old girl in any century.

The theme of freedom running though this young adult novel is symbolized in Isabel's pet lark named Anusim (the forced one, a reference to the new Christians such as her family). The beautiful cage Anusim is kept in is not unlike that chosen by her well-to-do physician father - pleasant, but still a cage. Isabel's treatment of her pet is similar to that of the friends and acquaintances of Isabel's family who play parts in their downfall during the Inquisition.

The book opens with Isabel saying things about a slave girl which are shocking to modern sensibilities. As hard as it is to read, people do treat each other badly due to race and social status, and even moreso in the past. This reality lesson is tempered by Isabel's growth, as she realizes that others are prejudiced based on lies and she too is able to face her own misconceptions. As diverse as the population of Spain is at the time, there is a strict social order, and Isabel the slave-owner is caught up in it too. I was reminded of the quote "No one is free until everyone is free."

Wiseman (Kanada, No One Must Know) writes historical fiction for middle-grade readers that focuses on the social ramifications of the treatment of Jews throughout history. Any of these books would be a good choice for students interested in reading ficitonalized account of Jewish social history after reading The Diary of Anne Frank.

This is the 36th book I have read for the 5th Canadian Book Challenge.


  1. The Diary Of Ann Frank was always one of my favorite books--I read it numerous times when I was young and made sure my own children read it when they were old enough to understand it.
    Also wanted to thank you for your recent visit to my blog site---always a pleasure to see my blogger friends there!

    1. Thanks for visiting. I loved Anne Frank too, but was so shocked when I visited her attic in the Netherlands, it really brought the horror home.

  2. I always enjoy stories like this. Fairly recently I've read and reviewed Lily Renee as part of their blogtour - basically the same theme. I have a feeling this would be a good companion book.

    1. Thanks for the Lily Renee suggestion, I will check it out! I love historical fiction.


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