Thursday, January 31, 2008

Pg. 69: Jeffrey Hantover's "The Jewel Trader of Pegu"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Jeffrey Hantover's The Jewel Trader of Pegu.

About the book, from the publisher:

A melancholy young Jewish gem merchant, Abraham, born in Venice, has lived his life behind the ghetto walls of that damp, oppressive city. He has lost a wife and the son whose difficult birth killed her. Now there is nothing left for him there.

In the autumn of 1598, Abraham chooses to seek his fortune far from the painful familiarity of Europe and travels halfway across the world to the lush and exotic Burmese kingdom of Pegu. An overpoweringly strange mélange of sodden heat, colorful customs, and odd superstitions, it is a place and a people completely alien to him. Yet in Pegu, the jewel trader is not hated or shunned for his faith. Here Abraham is a man. Here he is free.

But there is a price for his newfound freedom. Local custom demands that foreigners perform a duty Abraham finds both troubling and barbaric. While it is a responsibility many men would embrace eagerly, it mocks Abraham's moral beliefs and fills him with dread and despair ... until Mya arrives to briefly share his bed.

Barely more than a girl, she awakens something within him far more profound — and more pleasurable — than the guilt he anticipated. And when tragedy destroys the future that was planned for her, Abraham takes Mya in, offering her his home, his protection, and, unexpectedly, his love. But great social and political upheaval threatens to violently transform the entire Peguan empire — and the actions of the powerful will force fateful choices that could have devastating consequences for Abraham and Mya and their dreams for the future.

Among the early praise for The Jewel Trader of Pegu:
“Dreamy and lyrical, steeped in the customs and atmosphere of a world long lost, The Jewel Trader of Pegu takes the reader on a deep emotional journey through the meanings of what is precious.”
–Liza Dalby, author of The Tale of Murasaki

The Jewel Trader of Pegu is a thinking reader’s tale with all the trappings of an exotic historical romance.”
–Debra Dean, author of The Madonnas of Leningrad

"They [readers] will be swept away by Hantover's lavish descriptions of an exotic, lost Asian kingdom; the gentle love story; and the tale of one man's thoughtful journey to his heart's home."
–Sarah Johnson, Booklist

"Making his fiction debut, Hantover intercuts Abraham’s letters with short chapters from Mya’s point of view with delicacy and grace. He evokes the lush setting and gives clear voice to Abraham’s doubts, fears and passions."
Publishers Weekly
Read an excerpt from The Jewel Trader of Pegu, and learn more about the author and his work at Jeffrey Hantover's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Jewel Trader of Pegu.

--Marshal Zeringue