Few novels by a writer previously unknown to me have excited me as much as Richard Zimler’s international bestseller The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon. Set in Portugal at the close of the fifteenth century, it describes how King Manuel’s decision to convert, rather than expel, the Jews from his country resulted in many of them publicly embracing Christianity while at the same time secretly retaining their true faith. At the centre of a broad and brilliant canvas is the Zarco family, valiantly and sometimes disastrously attempting to come to terms with the new dispensation. Descendants of the same family, some three centuries later, provided the main characters in Zimler’s no less epic Hunting Midnight. Now, in this latest volume of what might be called Zimler’s ‘Sephardic Trilogy’, another Zarco, a young man called Tiago, is both protagonist and narrator.
The time is the close of the sixteenth century. Fleeing from Portugal, two Zarco brothers, having first found a temporary haven in Constantinople, travel on to Goa, where they believe that they will simultaneously enjoy new opportunities and at last be rid of all fear of persecution. But, sadly, the