Thursday, April 4, 2013

House of Rocamora by Donald Michael Platt

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Read: March 29, 2013

House of Rocamora, a novel of the 17th century, continues the exceptional life of roguish Vicente de Rocamora, the historical Dominican friar (1601-1684), royal confessor for Holy Roman Empress María when she was Infanta of Spain, putative Inquisitor General, and master of disguise. After Rocamora arrives in Amsterdam at age forty-two, asserts he is a Jew, and takes the name Isaac, he must find his place in a land antipodal to Spain. He revels in a new freedom to become whatever he wants for the first time in his life. Rocamora makes new friends, both Christian and Jew, including scholars, men of power and, typically, the disreputable. He also acquires enemies in the Sephardic community who believe he is a spy for the Inquisition or resent him for having been a Dominican. As Isaac Israel de Rocamora, he learns the Dutch language, studies Medicine at Leyden and at age forty-six receives a license to practice. That same year Rocamora weds twenty-five year old Abigail Touro, his greatest love, who will give him nine children over the next eleven years. Rocamora has a bizarre encounter with Rembrandt, serves the House of Orange as physician, and advises Spinoza before the  philosopher’s excommunication. He survives a murder attempt, learns from the great English physician Harvey, and a surprise visit from a childhood friend leads to an unusual business venture. A renowned physician, Rocamora must ensure his wife, children, and patients survive several plagues that kill tens of thousands in Amsterdam and more throughout the Dutch Republic. Life is never routine or dull for Rocamora from the day he arrives in Amsterdam until his last breath, with triumphs and sorrows, and the ultimate satisfaction of having begun a multi-generational dynasty of physicians.

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I think I actually like Donald Michael Platt's House of Rocamora more than its predecessor. Not to say that one book is particularly better than the other, I just liked the more personal nature of this volume as opposed to the political intrigue that drove the original story. 

Again I want to stress that Platt writes heavy historic fiction and though I enjoy his work, some readers may find the level of detail in his stories difficult to digest. I wasn't exactly prepared for it when I began book one, but having become familiar with Platt's style, I found I had a much easier time with book two. 

Something I loved about this piece was how Platt approached the Jewish faith, presenting a clear picture of how the Jewish community functioned in the Netherlands during the late 1600s. I'm not overly familiar with the local or the religion for that matter and found Platt's descriptions fascinating to say the least.  

I suppose my only real concern here is the name dropping. It wasn't so evident in the previous installment considering the elevated circles with which Rocamora associated, but as a private citizen, the regular steam of notable historic figures was somewhat distracting and didn't feel entirely authentic. 

Platt's dedication to portraying Rocamora's life is most admirable and though I wouldn't classify it as a stand alone piece, I found House of Rocamora both well-researched and enjoyable.   

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"Henceforth I will do as they, And love a new love every day."
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Check out all the stops on the historical fiction VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR of Donald Michael Platt's Rocamora and House of Rocamora. 

Monday, March 25

Review at A Book Geek (Rocamora)
Tuesday, March 26
Review at A Bookish Affair (Rocamora)
Review at Man of a Book (Rocamora)
Wednesday, March 27
Review at Flashlight Commentary (Rocamora)
Thursday, March 28
Review at Book Addict Katie (Rocamora)
Review at Words and Peace (House of Rocamora)
Friday, March 29
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews (Rocamora)
Monday, April 1
Review at Unabridged Chick (Rocamora)
Tuesday, April 2
Review at Rebel PuritAn (Rocamora)
Wednesday, April 3
Review at Book Dilettante (Rocamora)
Thursday, April 4
Review at A Bookish Affair (House of Rocamora)
Review at Flashlight Commentary (House of Rocamora)
Friday, April 5
Review at Book Dilettante (House of Rocamora)
Monday, April 8
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews (House of Rocamora)
Tuesday, April 9
Review at The Musings of a Book Junkie (Rocamora)
Wednesday, April 10
Review at Man of la Book (House of Rocamora)
Review at Unabridged Chick (House of Rocamora)
Thursday, April 11
Review at Turning the Pages (Rocamora)
Friday, April 12
Review at Broken Teepee (Rocamora)
Monday, April 15
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! (Rocamora)
Tuesday, April 16
Review at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time (Rocamora)
Wednesday, April 17
Review at Layered Pages (Rocamora)
Thursday, April 18
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! (House of Rocamora)
Friday, April 19
Review at Broken Teepee (House of Rocamora)
Review at Confessions of an Avid Reader (Rocamora) 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought the book was ok, but I had also a few issues with it: