Book: The Witch of Cologne
Author: Tobsha Learner
Published: 2003 (HarperCollins)
Everybody in this book lives in terrible fear of the Spanish inquisition, especially the protagonist who is a Jewish midwife who dabbles in kabala just to make sure but only really believes in actual science that she had the balls to learn because she pretended to be a boy to get educated and then she turned out so awesome at it that nobody cares except the meany priests bent on revenge and power.
This is a very serious book that takes itself, True Love, and fighting for freedom very, very seriously. Its whole tone is covered in that layer of misty gravity historical novels seem to think they need to convey that this is some important shit going down. Look, lady, I can tell, not the least reason because you insist on telling me everything and showing me nothing (except sex scenes, which, I mean, good job on that part). You get inside everybody’s head, which would be awesome except that they’re all cardboard. It especially bugs me that Mary Sue and Mr. Too (not their real names), the protagonists, are portrayed as the only two enlightened enough to even consider that everyone is equal. All the other characters are like, “Scandal!” or at the least, with fond chuckles, “You crazy kids.”
I guess it is hard to portray how new the idea of equality was back then without American readers of today finding the arguments cartoonish and obvious. But I bet it’s not impossible.
And I know it’s possible to portray all the devastation of a doomed romance without overwriting about souls and destiny and how unicorns fart rainbows when these two fornicate but only in secret because Society doesn’t want them to be together.
Here’s a list of things I said out loud as I was plowing through this, in rough chronological order.
- How’d she get such a good manicure in the German Jewish ghetto of the 1600s?
- It’s a crime for a book with this cover to be SO BORING. (The plot gets better, though.)
- “Speak plainly, Wilhelm, my gout has shortened my temper.” Ha. This. Do more of this.
- Does one pronounce the city Cologne like the stuff men use to smell pretty cologne? Is that where that came from? Where’s the Wikipedias I left lying around here?
- There was seriously someone called the Witchfinder General?
- Besser tsu shtarben shtai’endik aider tsu leben oif di k’nien; better to die upright than to live on your knees. That is this book’s motto, right there.
- I HATE WHEN AUTHORS GO, “blah blah was blah blah as if it were blah blah, as indeed it was.” IF IT WAS LIKE THAT JUST SAY SO. DON’T DOUBLE BACK ON YOUR METAPHORS. THEY WILL BITE YOU IN THE ASS FOR THAT.
- Her “nether hole.” Um. Is that…the, ah, female opening designed for sex, or does that mean—okay, I can’t tell from this scene and am just going to move on. She had a good time, anyway.
- Of course she’s pregnant. (Not related to above scene. Different lady.)
- And—wait, he actually DIES on the rack? Huh. That works for the narrative. Yay, no last-minute saving bullshit.
Terrible things. Happen to saintly people. Another one. Okay, it’s symbolic corn-punching time. *rolls up sleeves*