The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem: A Novel (Paperback)
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Now a Netflix Series, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is a dazzling story about mothers and daughters, secrets and betrayals, and a binding curse.
The #1 International Bestseller
Gabriela's mother Luna is the most beautiful woman in all of Jerusalem, though her famed beauty and charm seem to be reserved for everyone but her daughter. Ever since Gabriela can remember, she and Luna have struggled to connect. But when tragedy strikes, Gabriela senses there's more to her mother than painted nails and lips.
Desperate to understand their relationship, Gabriela pieces together the stories of her family's previous generations—from Great-Grandmother Mercada the renowned healer, to Grandma Rosa who cleaned houses for the English, to Luna who had the nicest legs in Jerusalem. But as she uncovers shocking secrets, forbidden romances, and the family curse that links the women together, Gabriela must face a past and present far more complex than she ever imagined.
Set against the Golden Age of Hollywood, the dark days of World War II, and the swinging '70s, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem follows generations of unforgettable women as they forge their own paths through times of dramatic change. With great humor and heart, Sarit Yishai-Levi has given us a powerful story of love and forgiveness—and the unexpected and enchanting places we find each.
Finalist for the Book Club category of the 2016 National Jewish Book Awards.
About the Author
SARIT YISHAI-LEVI is a journalist and author of several nonfiction books. Her debut novel, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem, was a #1 bestseller and won the Publishers Association’s Gold and Platinum Prizes and the Steimatzky Prize for bestselling book of the year when it was published in Israel. She lives in Tel Aviv.
"Highly recommended for those who are fascinated by the history of Jerusalem and the Jews that lived and stayed there, as well as for those looking to learn more about the Spaniol community." —Booklist (starred review)
"Fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez will find much to love in The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem. The narrative is lush and rife with scandalous secrets of a passionately opinionated family..." —Jewish Journal
"Exquisitely rich in history and detail.... [A] poignant and intriguing book." —Historical Novel Society
"Yishai-Levi’s novel stands out, and fortunately her writing stands up to scrutiny, too: She’s a journalist whose nose for character makes Beauty Queen a winner." —LitHub
"I’m not aware of another work of fiction that paints such a vivid picture of the traditions, folklore and language of Jerusalem’s very significant Sephardic community... The novel also offers a compelling history of Jerusalem in the 20th century as experienced by the people most affected by its twists and turns." —Jewish Weekly
"Yishai-Levi provides a compelling and meticulously researched historical backdrop to her story.... This romantic and engaging novel has been an Israeli bestseller for more than two years. This English translation will make new readers enamored with these women and men of Jerusalem." —Jewish Book Council
"Reads to an American like a Sephardi version of Fiddler on the Roof.... If Yishai-Levi intended her novel to depict how personal hurts can intertwine with history to divide distinctive groups, then she’s done a fine job. But her bigger triumph perhaps lies in showing Israel’s unique challenge: to assemble its balkanized communities into a coherent whole." —Haaretz
“The language, flavours, superstitions and prejudices of the Ermosa family are as compelling as the spiced, nuanced aromas of their cooking…. [A] fascinating exploration of ... the human spirit.” —Jewish Renaissance (UK)
"The experiences of Jews in the Holy Land—first under the Turkish Empire, then under the British Mandate, and finally living in their own country—are well-integrated into the plot. Readers will learn Ladino expressions and gain insight into Ladino culture. All in all, this excellent novel has many lessons to teach." —San Diego Jewish World
"The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is a wonderful read—full of fascinating characters and spanning four generations of Israeli women. As their country struggles through its birth pangs, they struggle through wars, economic and social upheavals, and many losses—both physical and emotional. Compelling and satisfying." —B.A. Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author of The Muralist and The Art Forger
“Passion and the grand sweep of history permeate this dazzling, you-cannot-put-it-down novel about four generations of astonishing women--and the men in their family who just might be cursed by love. So rich and vibrant that every page seems to virtually breathe.” —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You
"A breathtaking saga, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem will haunt and uplift you all at once, staying in your heart long after you've turned the last page." —Nicole Dweck, bestselling author of The Debt of Tamar
"Yishai-Levi has captured both the unbroken thread running through generations of a Sephardi family and the intricacies of everyday life unspooling against the backdrop of Jerusalem. As sensuously infused with sights, sounds and smells as a Jerusalem market, and as finely detailed and colorful as a Levantine tapestry, The Beauty Queen of Jerusalem is a thrilling exploration of a daughter coming to terms with a mother." —Talia Carner, author of Hotel Moscow and Jerusalem Maiden
"Engrossing and original... The Sephardi version of Amos Oz's A Tale of Love and Darkness." —Nana 10 (Israel)
"The events are permeated with powerful emotion… Only someone with abundant and generous heart could write such a book." —Marmelada (Israel)