Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A Divided Inheritance by Deborah Swift

This is also a review for the Historical Fiction Challenge at the Historical Tapestry.

This book started out good. Elspet Leviston is living with her father in London, helping him out with
his lace business. We are talking London, 1609. One day her father comes home with a young man that he introduces as her half brother, Zachary Deane. The father always wanted a son who could take over the business, and is now eager to introduce it to Zach. However, he is not very interested. His main goal is to get some money and go to Spain to learn the craft of a swordsman. Elspet, who is the one really knowing the business from all angels, see that she is ousted.

Mr Leviston sends Zach to a European tour to learn the business, meet their colleagues in other countries from where the lace is bought. Zach has his own agenda and deviates rather quickly and goes to Spain and starts his apprentice as a swordsman. Unexpectedly, the father dies. Unexpectedly, for all involved, the father leaves all his property and business to Zach. Since Elspet is supposed to marry he did not think she needed anything extra.

Letters are exchanged and finally they find Zach in Spain. His reply is to sell everything and send him the money. Elspeth and the manager of the business set of to Spain to try to persuade him to keep it, for the sake of the people employed and for Elspet, whose supposed marriage was cancelled.

Once in Seville in Spain everything changes. There is a fight of wills between Zach and Elspet and she refuses to leave before he has agreed to cancel the selling of the business. Zach's main interest is the training he has with a maestro. These are turbulent times for the moors of Spain who are being expelled. These people are born and have lived in Spain all their life and most of them have never been to their original country. Zach and Elspet get involved in the turmoil when trying to save friends. Both their attitudes to each other, to the world around them and to their future change

The book is very well, written and the historic time is interesting. I also quite liked the book up until Elspet sets out to find Zach. There somehow it lost a little bit of interest from my side. It picked up again at the end, especially for the expulsion period. It is very well described how people felt, the terrible injustice in it all and the panic that arose. The middle part where there seem to be mostly technical descriptions in the art of sword fighting I found rather too long and boring. I could not really see a reason for this. There is no explanation why Zach is so obsessed with this art, and what he will do with it once he has learned it, apart from the occasional duels.

Both Elspet and Zach matures during their adventures and experiences. Still I felt somewhat left out at the end. It is a more realistic end than a romantic one would have been, but I still think:
Much Ado About Nothing!

The title can also be seen as a description for the two big events in the book. It is not only a divided inheritance for Elspet and Zach but also for the moors, or Moroccos as they are called in the book. They have lived in Spain for generations, having grown up with the old religion and customs, and living in a country with a new religion and customs. The inheritance is dividing.

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