The Jewel Trader of Pegu by Jeffrey Hantover
Abraham is a young Jewish man from the ghettos of Venice who travels in 1598 to Pegu (part of Burma, as far as I can tell). He goes on behalf of his uncle who took him in when he was orphaned as a child and who is a jewel merchant. Pegu is a goldmine of precious jewels for European traders who can take them back to their homes for great profit.
Abraham is a devout man, one who is determined to abide by his religion while far from home, although he greatly enjoys the freedom of not being subjected to the traditional rules that Europe places on its Jews, rules like no touching fruit in the market. Peguan culture eventually conflicts with Jewish culture, though, and provides Abraham with a very difficult decision, one that will change his life.
I liked this book, but I was not totally blown away by it. The writing was good and very descriptive of life in Pegu. I think my main problem was trying to read anything resembling historical fiction right on the heels of “The Sunne in Splendor.” Perhaps part of my problem as well is that I was expecting historical fiction and “The Jewel Trader of Pegu” seemed to me to be more literary fiction in an historical setting than actually historical fiction.
“The Jewel Trader of Pegu” was pretty good and I would recommend it for someone who enjoys literary fiction and is interested in reading something in an historical setting. Don’t go into it expecting traditional historical fiction, though.