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About this book
Son of Two Fathers
Jacqueline Park • Gilbert Reid
April, 1536. Danilo del Medigo arrives incognito in Venice from Istanbul, with two assassins from Suleiman the Magnificent’s court hot on his trail. Western civilization is in crisis. Jews and “New Christians” — people whose families had converted from Judaism — are threatened with expulsion, imprisonment, and death. Danilo seeks refuge in the Venetian Ghetto, and promptly falls in love with the beautiful Miriamne Hazan.?
But soon Danilo is blackmailed into becoming a spy for Venice, which means he must abandon Miriamne in order to save her. The only safe place for him is in plain sight, so he embeds himself with an itinerant group of actors travelling the Italian countryside. With assassins close behind and avalanches along his path, Danilo, together with a cast of libertines, courtesans, and fellow spies, witnesses the agony of the Renaissance: Protestants warring with Catholics, the Inquisition threatening everyone, and the Ottoman Empire poised to invade the heart of Europe. As fear and panic spread throughout the Jewish communities of Italy, a promise of a new lifeline emerges, and Danilo may be the only one who can ensure it. Will Danilo help rescue his fellow Jews, find his father, and be reunited with Miriamne Hazan?
The sun was low, hidden behind the four-story buildings that lined the narrow placid little canal, the rio del Ghetto, which separated the Jewish Ghetto Nuovo from the rest of Venice; it was almost dusk, the Eve of Passover, April 4, 1536.
A lone figure — a young man, his skin tanned dark by the sun, with blue eyes, and blond hair — stood before the footbridge that led to the wooden gate of the Ghetto.
A balmy spring breeze ruffled the shadowy waters of the canal.
The young man — Danilo del Medigo — presented all the appearance of a fashionable Venetian man-about-town, an athletic aristocrat, a gentleman warrior. His sparkling white shirt was clearly of the finest linen, and trimmed at the neck with a ruff of white ermine; his black peaked cap was set at a jaunty angle. He could, quite easily, be taken for the son of a wealthy Venetian patrician, or Norman aristocrat.
Only the carpet bag, slung over his shoulder, indicated that he was a traveler, a wanderer.
He glanced nervously behind him. The alleyway was empty. The footpath beside the canal was empty too, except for an elderly workman, trudging along, head down, carrying a few bricks on a wooden plank on his shoulder. Danilo watched the man approach. They must be building or repairing something nearby; Venice was, he had been told, a non-stop building site, magnificent new splendors being added every day.
The worker glanced at Danilo, nodded, “Beautiful evening, sir.”
“Indeed, it is,” Danilo answered, with a slight inclination of his head.
He watched the workman head down the calle, one of the multitudes of labyrinthine paths and walkways that made Venice so delightful and so confusing. He shifted his carpetbag. Even here in Venice, he wasn’t safe. He had to be aware of every movement, of every person and every possible ambush point. The Men in Black, professional killers on orders from the Ottoman Sultan’s wife, Hürrem, had — he was certain of it — followed him from Istanbul. Ottoman assassins were known to be persistent and very good at their job.
He imagined the dagger strike, anticipating how he would parry it. The killers would be quick; he would be quicker. Escaping from Istanbul, he had already killed one of the Men in Black. If they knew he was the killer, their determination to kill him would be even greater.
Who else knew he was in Venice? The spies of Venice — and Venice had spies everywhere — would surely know that a lone young man had arrived from Istanbul; and, if they knew who he was, the son of the Sultan’s personal physician, they would certainly be eager to question him. The Ottoman Empire was a trading partner for Venice, but it was also the greatest rival and danger Venice faced. In the war of civilizations, Venice was in the front line, facing the mighty Islamic threat that hung over all of Christian Europe. So the Venetians would be suspicious of any undocumented stranger arriving from Istanbul — they would want to know all about him.
Samuel Mendes, of the Mendes Bank, who had sold him his present splendid suit of clothes, had warned him of the dangers.
As they were talking, Mendes had glanced at some storm clouds — a sea squall to the east, out over the Adriatic — and said, “A great storm is coming, and it will sweep all the Jews and New Christians before it. We must prepare.”
Mendes had also hinted — very graciously — that Danilo, with his warrior skills, knowledge of the Ottoman Empire, contacts in Istanbul, and languages – Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Italian and French — might be, in the future, useful to the bank.
That had been three or four hours ago. The storm had disappeared. The evening sky was now untroubled and clear.
Danilo stared at the entry to the Ghetto Nuovo. It was the first Jewish ghetto to be established in Venice. The low-ceilinged passageway was closed by a gate from sunset to sunrise, and it was guarded, always, by a Christian watchman. Danilo glanced at the high walls, at the barred and bricked up windows. The ghetto was a prison.
Should he cross the bridge and enter the Ghetto? He frowned. Who are you, really, Danilo del Medigo? Are you a Jew? Or are you a Gentile?
The sun disappeared below the rooftops; the canals and alleyways were suddenly shrouded in a warm, luminous, blue Venetian penumbra; high up, roofs and elaborately shaped chimney pots were tinged a bright blood-red, still reflecting the light of the setting sun.
The stout wooden gate to the ghetto had already been closed for the night.
He took a deep breath. The gathering bluish shadows recalled those in the stable where he and Saida — his Muslim princess, his great love, the favorite daughter of Suleiman the Magnificent — had made love for the first and only time; he could see her, even now — how she had come to him, through the shadows, and slowly, elegantly, teasingly, removed her clothes.
Danilo shifted the weight of his carpet bag. Was this his home, within these walls?
About the Creators
: JACQUELINE PARK (1925–2018) was the bestselling author of the Grazia dei Rossi Trilogy (The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi: Book 1, The Legacy of Grazia dei Rossi: Book 2, and Son of Two Fathers: Book 3). She was also the founding chairman of the Dramatic Writing Program and professor emerita at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.
GILBERT REID is a veteran television and radio producer and writer, who lived and worked for thirty years in Europe. He was nominated for a Gemini Award for Best Documentary Writing for Storming the Ridge, and for eleven years he was the Director of the Canadian Cultural Center in Rome. He has written for the Globe and Mail, the Times Literary Supplement, and many other publications, and he has interviewed such personalities as Robert Altman, Marguerite Duras, Sergio Leone, and Northrop Frye. He is the author of the critically acclaimed story collection So This Is Love. His short story, “Pavilion 24,” was nominated for Best Fiction by the Canadian Magazine Awards. He lives in Toronto.
Awards and Praise
PRAISE FOR JACQUELINE PARK AND THE LEGACY OF GRAZIA DEI ROSSI:
“Delightfully evocative . . . rich in historical detail.” — Globe and Mail
“Park puts in place the literary pieces that ultimately form a beguiling fiction that is equal part youthful, hotheaded romance, and meticulous, detailed history . . . The book is a feast of concentrated, eye-opening detail.” — Canadian Jewish News
“Forbidden love, bravery, honour, battle, travel, intrigue, feasting: this book has it all.” — National Post Afterword Reading Society
PRAISE FOR JACQUELINE PARK AND THE SECRET BOOK OF GRAZIA DEI ROSSI:
“A sprawling historical novel that boasts its research on every page.” — Elizabeth Renzetti, Globe and Mail
“It is a rich Italian tapestry of human vices and virtues . . . in fact, all the irresistible elements of a fairy tale.” — Toronto Star
“Possessing a precise eye for detail and a superb sense of time and place, Park has produced a remarkable saga about life during the Renaissance . . . An imaginative work deserving a wide audience.” — Winnipeg Free Press
“A historical novel with a Renaissance Jewish heroine as captivating as Scarlett O’Hara. Simply irresistible.” — Newsday
“One is reluctant to close this window on a dramatic chapter of the distant past, or to part company with a woman so full of grace and gumption.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“Wonderful. An absolutely fascinating, compulsively readable novel about a sixteenth century woman who would be considered outstanding in any era.” — Miami Herald
“An epic book . . . Park’s picture of the Renaissance is as incandescent as Italy’s frescoes.” — Detroit Free Press
“Rich and impressive. Park has written a vivid novel of the dawn of modern times. Subtly complex and intensely readable, it is also very wise.” — Philadelphia Inquirer
“Park has written a superior piece of historical fiction, rich in Renaissance detail.” — Dallas Morning News
“Subtle and seductive . . . Park has created a lively, courageous, and introspective heroine. Through Grazia, she elucidates the intricate and perilous world of Italian Jews during the Renaissance, telling her spellbinding story with honesty and humour and meticulous historical accuracy.” — Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
“An exquisitely crafted evocation of Renaissance Italy. An engrossing and illuminating chronicle of one woman’s lifelong quest to maintain a delicate balance between faith and expediency.” — Booklist
“The splendour and tumult of the Italian Renaissance live con brio in this page-turning tale . . . A story as rich as Raphael’s tapestries . . . A genuine Renaissance woman memorably struts her stuff in a first novel that consummately mixes fact and fancy. Historical fiction at its best.” — Kirkus Reviews