Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this dynamic work, Chacel paints a powerful and disturbing portrait of a precocious girl's coming of age. First published in Spain in 1945, and appearing in English for the first time in a clear and sensitive translation, the story reads like a diary in which Leticia, obsessed with her fast-approaching twelfth birthday, chronicles her life. This imaginative, introspective girl lives with her aunt and alcoholic father in the village of Simancas and contemplates life, death, truth, meaning and language in a way that belies her young age. She begins studying with the local archivist and quickly develops a passionate but complex relationship with him and his wife. She seduces them both, creating a tension that inevitably explodes. But don't expect precise detail: sensory memories take precedence over the mundane. Though Leticia's recollections are so allusive that what happened at the archivist's house is never explained, the often dense and abstruse narrative is always lucid. Maier's afterword helps illuminate the plot and provides a historical and literary context in which to interpret the text, making important connections to Dostoyevski and Freud. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
First published in 1945 and now making its US debut: in luminous prose, an elliptical tale of seduction from one of Spain's leading women writers. Set between the wars in provincial Spain, the story is related by an 11-year-old girl who, while precocious in vocabulary, is still a child in understanding, which makes her seduction by her tutor quite credible. This ``inconceivable act'' is recalled a year later because the narrator, now separated from everything she worshipped--``as if those things had hurt me''--decides to write everything down ``so they will never be erased in my memory.'' The only daughter of a man badly wounded fighting in Africa--her mother's absence is never fully explained--she lives with her father and aunt. An observant child, she determines the cause of her father's slurred speech by daily measuring the household cognac. The family moves to the small town of Simancas, a place where her father ``could get some fresh air without having to make such an effort.'' Here, Leticia attends embroidery classes given by the local mistress, puzzles over her father and aunt's unease, and explores the town, but it is her meeting with Donna Luisa that will transform her life. A young mother and musician, Donna Luisa has a quality that Leticia calls ``worldly, which was nothing other than a perfect ease about everything in the world.'' The two become close friends, and it seems fitting that husband Daniel, the local archivist, tutor the young girl. It is her evolving relationship with Daniel that Leticia, limited by knowledge and experience, tries to understand and describe as it moves to its inevitable and desired consummation. A close read, but ultimately rich and rewarding in its sensitively nuanced evocation of awakening sexuality and passion. A notable debut.
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