When “the scrawny old man riding a donkey” appears between two sand dunes, Yudah is disappointed. She’d imagined the rabbi would have “a potbelly like all well-fed men, with perhaps one or two gold teeth to taunt the sun.” Still, after the rabbi inspects all the tribe’s eligible girls and chooses Yudah as a bride for Emir Abdelkader, she goes with him to the city. She’s soon disappointed: The rabbi’s plan to ingratiate the Jews with the Muslim leader quickly falls apart. Khoury-Ghata’s latest book to appear in English is lyrical and slim and apparently based on a little-known figure from history. Yudah makes for a compelling heroine. When she arrives at his tents, Abdelkader is away at war. He is soon banished from Algeria to the port of Toulon with his wives, while his followers—and Yudah—are sent to Île Sainte-Marguerite. From there, Yudah’s adventures only multiply. Still, Khoury-Ghata’s emphasis is less on plot than on language, which has been beautifully rendered into English by Fagan. On Île Sainte-Marguerite, for example, where Abdelkader’s followers are scared, sick, and starving—and suspicious of Yudah—“an old woman saw Abdelkader in a dream arriving in three signs, three days, or three weeks to take them home. He was riding the waves and the waves flattened as he went over them. He brought back everyone, except the girl who claimed to be his future wife.” Still, despite the lyricism and Yudah’s compelling story, Khoury-Ghata’s book lacks something—some depth or rich entanglement. A late-stage appearance by Victor Hugo strains credulity even though it is apparently based in fact. This is a lovely book but not, in the end, a great one.