BOOK REVIEW: "The Weight of Ink" Is a Shining Example of Historical Fiction’s Best Qualities

Rachel Kadish's The Weight of Ink gives us a partnership made in sitcom heaven: Helen Watt is a British gentile historian coming up on retirement age, friendless, unmarried, childless, forged in iron by decades of academic infighting. Aaron Levy is an American Jewish Ph.D. student dithering on a Shakespeare dissertation, unsure of every facet of his identity except for his canny way with women. When Helen stumbles on a trove of potentially valuable documents from 17th century London's Jewish community, Aaron is sent by his advisor to help her translate and make sense of the find.

Their odd-couple mismatch is rather amusing, even in the early days of their work when neither of them particularly respects the other. But as Helen begins to defrost her exterior and Aaron stops trying to be charming all the time, they realize they've made an incredible historical find: evidence of a Jewish woman scribe and philosopher from the time of Spinoza, whose own narrative is interwoven with Helen's and Aaron's. Their book-long journey from terse coworkers to true colleagues, united by their investment in the history of this singular woman, is incredibly satisfying, especially for every student who has worried that their professor doesn't like them.
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