House of Rocamora
Donald Michael PLATT
Published by Raven’s Wing Books/Briona Glen on November 19, 2012
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This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, “Isaac (Vicente) de Rocamora was a Spanish monk, physician, and poet. He was born about 1600 of Marano parents at Valencia and died April 8, 1684, at Amsterdam. Educated for the Church, he became a Dominican monk (assuming the name “Vicente de Rocamora”) and confessor to the Infanta Maria of Spain, subsequently Empress of Austria, who honored him greatly. In 1643 he openly adopted Judaism, taking the name of Isaac. He studied medicine, and then settled in Amsterdam, where he engaged in the active practise of his profession. He became physician to and director of several philanthropic societies in that city, among them the Maskil el Dal and Abi Yetomim.
Rocamora was one of the judges of the academy of poetry, Los Sitibundos, founded by Manuel de Belmonte; but none of his poetical works, either in Spanish or in Latin, has been preserved. His son Solomon de Rocamora also was a physician in Amsterdam.”
Quite a life journey!
House of Rocamora presents Isaac’s life as he arrives in the Netherlands. There’s not really any big plot or intrigue, it’s just about his daily life away from the terrors of the Spanish Inquisition – even though he sometimes wonders if he might still be too close to their claws. It is about his integration in the Jewish community (I let you read the book to determine how much integrated he is or wants to be), within the context of Christian/Jewish relationships, and relationships of various groups within the Jewish world itself. It is also about his new career: his studies and new position as a medical doctor, and the family he will raise.
I had actually totally forgotten all the connections between Spain and the Netherlands, specifically that following a series of alliances and marriages, the Netherlands ended up under Spanish rule, until January 30, 1648, with the Treaty of Münster!
Apart from that, it was interesting to see the daily life among Jewish people (it reminded me a bit of Rashi’s Daughters, though set in France a few centuries earlier), scholars, and doctors.
So the book was ok, but I think it could have been a novel with some real plots around the life of Rocamora. It would have made it more lively. My thinking is that if the book does not have too much have a plot, why not then write a real biography, not a historical novel.
Around chapter 40, it got a bit confusing about several other members of the Rocamora family we had not much heard of before.
Also, the editing is not too good: words or letters missing, doubled or in the wrong order. Plus on many pages, especially in the first half of the book, some long passages were in grey, as if the printer had run out of ink. This was really weird. I don’t know if it was just my copy (not even an ARC!) or what.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
A new life and a new name … House of Rocamora, a novel of the 17th century, continues the exceptional life of roguish Vicente de Rocamora, a former Dominican friar, confessor to the Infanta of Spain, and almost Inquisitor General.
After Rocamora arrives in Amsterdam at age forty-two, asserts he is a Jew, and takes the name, “Isaac,” he revels in the freedom to become whatever he chooses 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 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, and together they raise a large family. During his time in Amsterdam, 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.
Life is never routine or dull for Rocamora. The intrigues start with his arrival in Amsterdam and do not end until he takes his last breath.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born and raised inside San Francisco, I graduated from Lowell High School and received my B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley and won a batch of literary cash awards while in graduate school at San Jose State.
When I moved to southern California, I began my professional writing career. I sold to the TV series, MR. NOVAK, ghosted YOUR HAIR AND YOUR DIET for health food guru, Dan Dale Alexander, and wrote for and with diverse producers, among them as Harry Joe Brown, Sig Schlager, Albert J. Cohen, and Al Ruddy as well as Paul Stader Sr., dean of Hollywood stuntman and stunt/2nd unit director. Also, options were taken on my unpublished WWII fighter ace novel and several treatments.
After living in Florianópolis, Brazil, setting of my horror novel A GATHERING OF VULTURES, Dark Hart 2007, Briona Glen 2012, I moved to Florida where I wrote as a with: VITAMIN ENRICHED, pub.1999, for Carl DeSantis, founder of Rexall Sundown Vitamins; and THE COUPLE’S DISEASE, Finding a Cure for Your Lost “Love” Life, pub. 2002, for Lawrence S. Hakim, MD, FACS, Head of Sexual Dysfunction Unit at the Cleveland Clinic.
Currently, I reside in Winter Haven, Florida. My magnum opus historical novel, ROCAMORA, set in 17th century Spain and Amsterdam during their Golden Ages, was released by RAVEN’S WING BOOKS at the end of December 2008. It has been republished by Briona Glen, September 2011. My completed sequel HOUSE OF ROCAMORA was published by Briona Glen November 2012, and I am polishing a completed novel set in the 9th century Carolingian Empire about another unusual historical character, Bodo, the Apostate.
Please visit Donald Michael Platt’s Website for more information.
The previous book was called Rocamora, and it was 2012 Finalist International Book Awards for Historical Fiction. I hope the trailer of Rocamora also gives you the desire to read House of Rocamora.
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HISTORICAL NOVEL SET IN THE NETHERLANDS?
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