A Ceiling Made of Eggshells is a historical fiction novel that begins in 1483 when Loma is a seven-year-old Jewish girl living in Spain. The story covers the next nine years until the king and queen of Spain expel all the Jews in 1492. Since we know of the expulsion from the beginning, there is a sense of foreboding throughout the book.
Loma’s family is wealthy and live with Loma’s grandparents. Her grandfather is influential in Jewish communities throughout Spain. He and Loma’s father collect taxes from the Jews for the Spanish king and queen. The taxes are used to fight the Muslims.
Shortly after the story begins Loma loses several family members to the bionic plague, including her beloved grandma. Following the loss of his wife, Loma’s grandfather starts taking Loma on their travels around Spain. Initially, Loma likes being treated as an adult and enjoys time away from her angry mother and cruel brother. However, as the years pass and her older siblings marry and have children, she misses her family.
The story follows Loma’s travels until 1492 when the king and queen request to see Loma and her grandfather to inform them that the Jews must either convert to Christianity or leave in three months. The monarchs believe the Jews are a bad influence on the new Christian converts and since they have defeated the Muslims they no longer need Jewish money. The expulsion comes as a complete surprise to the Jews who had been deceived into thinking they had a good relationship with the monarchy. The story finishes in a flurry of activity as some Jews are desperate to leave, while others decide to convert.
This book presents an inaccurate view of Christianity but sadly, it is based on known historical events. Christians did intimidate and force Jews to be baptised, kidnapped their children to baptise them and imprisoned those who returned to their Jewish ways.
Author, Gail Carson Levine has produced a well-written and interesting story loosely based on her family history. Yet, it’s also a sad reflection on many aspects of human nature and behaviour.
Overall, a sombre read.
More reviews of this book can be found on Goodreads.