Beyond the Ghetto Gates is a transformative coming of age story as well as a deeply historical account of Napoleon's influence on Jewish communities during his Italian Campaign in 1796. I didn't know anything about Napoleon's time in Italy and was amazed by the changes he created as well as his infatuation with a miracle portrait of a Madonna. The writing changes between the points of view of Mirelle, Daniel and Christopher in Napoleon's troops and a Catholic family, Emilio and Francesca. All of these points of view are important to the story, however, it takes a little while to set everything up and the story didn't completely capture my interest until everyone's story lines came together. Mirelle's character was very well written. From the beginning I was amazed by her intelligence, steadfastness, caring nature and maturity. Mirelle's journey to find her purpose in life is a difficult one, filled with missteps, challenges and self realization. I appreciated that while romance was a part of the story, it was not what Mirelle fell back on in order to improve herself. Through Daniel and Christopher we see the impact of Napoleon's campaign through the eyes of both a Jewish and Catholic soldiers and their interactions with the citizens of Ancona. They see the effects of injustice as well as the positive and negative effects of faith on people and what that can drive them to do. I didn't know anything about Napoleon's Italian campaign or even the original Italian Ghettos before reading this and was glad to open my eyes to this part of history. The writing created vivid imagery of Ancona, the Ketubah workshop and the dazzling homes. Beyond the Ghetto Gates is an amazing story of courage, hope and doing what's right.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.