Born with the same name, this title grabbed my attention years ago when I read the book at the time it had its original cover art. I love this book and claimed it as one of my favorites after recently re-reading it once again. The author, Joel Gross, spent over a year on the research to write this book, and it definitely shows in the knowledge of the Jewish traditions, persecutions and people of each era he writes about. With tremendous detail, it seems as if Mr. Gross actually lived the lives of each of his characters as well. The vivid prose is sometimes poetic, making the realistic feelings of each character come to life.
"The Books of Rachel" begins with a modern-day Rachel in the Prologue as she is about to marry. As is tradition, she is to be given her birthright, the 500-year old, 60-carat white Cuheno diamond, also known as the Rachel diamond, for it once belonged to her family's Rachels, generations before her.
"The Book of Rachel" is divided into five parts, each one a depiction of the life of a Rachel during her particular time and era. Like the diamond of her namesake, each Rachel is unique, fierce with the fire of conviction and proud of her heritage, possessing the dignity of royalty and the courage of a heroine.
Part One takes place in Spain during 1484 where Rachel Cuheno lives with her family in an esteemed and noble position under protection of the royal court of King Ferdinand, and where she dies during the reign of tortures of the Jewish people and others during the Spanish Inquisition. It is during this time that her brother cut the Cuheno diamond, meant to be hers before her death and later passed to another Rachel born to the male side of the Cuheno family after the prior Rachel had deceased.
Part Two is set in Venice in 1610 where Rachel lives in the Jewish ghetto but through her sister, living as a courtesan in a palace, Rachel fatefully meets a travelling cousin possessing her diamond and joins the wealthy diamond business in Amsterdam.
Part Three is the account of the enlightened, wealthy, admired, brilliant, renegade Rachel of Berlin in 1772 who gave up all privilege of the married lifestyle between the two famed diamond empires for the passionate love that matched her own in another man of unique genius,
In Part Four, set in 1852 Jerusalem, Rachel from France, gives up her privileged lifestyle to dedicate herself to the dreams of her people. Against the wishes of her parents, Rachel travels to Jerusalem and finds her life's purpose there, helping the Jewish settlers make a life for themselves by learning the craft of diamond cutting and becoming a part of her family's business.
Part Five - Kent, England, 1937 - tells of the outspoken, spontaneous Rachel, also born to wealth's privilege who regardless, finds herself a target of anit-Semitism as the Nazi's tentacles reach England. At age 19, Rachel goes to Germany to try to ransom out lives of as many Jewish people as she can with her family's money but is sent to a concentration camp and does not survive.
The Epilogue continues where the Prologue began - with the modern-day Rachel receiving the Cuheno diamond from her father - and as with all of the other parts of this outstanding book, I didn't want it to close.