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This book continues the story of Rebecca from Walter Scott's 1820 novel Ivanhoe
. The Ivanhoe backstory
: Jewish women in medieval England do not fall in love with Christian knights like Ivanhoe. Neither do they heal knights from battle wounds. But Rebecca does both--and nearly pays with her life. Rescued by Ivanhoe from being burnt at the stake as a sorceress, she flees from England and the man she loves. Rebecca of Salerno
: In Salerno, Kingdom of Sicily, Rebecca pursues her dreams by attending medical school. Practicing her profession, she defies family pressure to marry Rafael, the man who loves her. But more pressing is the conquest of Sicily by the Hohenstaufens and the arrival of rogue crusaders, both of which threaten Salerno's long-standing atmosphere of tolerance. When a rabbi is falsely accused of murdering a crusader, Rebecca and Rafael commit to pursuing justice and protecting the Jewish community.
This story provides fascinating history, as of the medical school in Salerno, where women and men--Christians, Muslims, and Jews--studied together. It also exemplifies the recurring Jewish experience of persecution, search for refuge, and resilience to remake lives.
Rebecca struggles to balance community expectations and traditions with her desire for fulfillment--one of the great challenges facing women throughout the ages.