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Reviewed by Brenda Daniels for Readers' Favorite
By Light of Hidden Candles by Daniella Levy is a story about two students, Manuel, a Spanish Catholic living in the USA, and Alma, an American Jew. Manuel and Alma set off from the USA for Spain to do a stint of academic research that involves the centuries-old Spanish Inquisition and both students’ family connections to it. As they make slow progress in the archives, the characters’ friendship grows and they reveal their religious faiths: Alma through her need for careful kosher eating, Manuel through his questions, doubts, and love for his Christian faith and his mysterious attraction to Judaism. The present-day story also alternates with that of 15th-century Spain, in which Miriam, a Jew, is directly threatened by the Spanish Inquisition and helped by a Spanish Catholic.
The two storylines eventually coalesce as the archives reveal their evidence and it is only at the very end that the reader understands what the title By Light of Hidden Candles really means. Daniella Levy has woven together a love story set against genuine faith, the rigors and mystery of academic research, and the long-term effects of the Inquisition on families. I appreciated this mix as it elevates romance, gives dignity to religious faith, and makes for absorbing and enjoyable reading.
Lori Felipe-Barkin’s narration of the audio version of By Light of Hidden Candles is excellent. The present-day characters of Manuel (Spanish) and Alma (American), told in first person, and 15th-century Miriam (Jewish), told in third person, have distinct accents and tones and Felipe-Barkin easily switches between them. She captures well the emotions of the characters and the many humorous parts of the story. This made for a lively and credible listening experience.