A Mercy

The Coffee Trader

by David Liss

Gail Reid: Miguel Lienzo is a Portuguese Jew who escaped the Inquisition and settles in 17th century Amsterdam. He makes his living as a commodities trader in the secular world while trying to maintain his Jewish identity. Portuguese Jews were governed by a ruling council; and Lienzos activities as a trader often find him before the council.

Lienzo teams up with a Dutch widow who learns of the magical effects of the coffee bean and astutely observes that it will become a valuable commodity in the Dutch market. The mysterious widow garners the attention of Lienzo to broker her interest in the coffee bean in the marketplace.

Historically, the book is fascinating as it delves into the ins and outs of commodities trading the secrets, the alliances, the often questionable ethics that are employed. And all of this during the 1600s! In addition, it focuses on the outsider a Portuguese Jew and the role of the immigrant in the Netherlands. Lienzos affection for his brothers wife streams throughout the book. But of greater interest is that character's role as an illiterate woman who desperately wants to learn to read.

Although most historical fiction does not resonate with me, this inside look at trading several centuries ago was an insight into the future. There are multiple plots that sometimes confuse, but the stories and characters really captured my attention. And, as a coffee lover, I found all the background fascinating. .
Rating: ****

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