I’ve been really bad about keeping up with my reviews for the A to Z Reading Challenge, so I apologize. I’d tell you all about my busy schedule lately and my fatale computer issues, but after settling down and buying a new MacBook Pro, with which I am having a passionate love affair, I have no more excuses. So, in the spirit of resuming my contributions to this blog and forgetting about all the things in life pulling me every which way, demanding attention, I’ll jump right in with my review. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
D is for The Divine Husband by Francisco Goldman
This book is very different from the historical fiction I usually read. I’m not usually intrigued about Latin American history, but for some reason, the synopsis of this book caught my attention. The Divine Husband is the account of one woman’s journey from childhood to adulthood in an unnamed, slightly fictional Latin American country, from the confines of a convent, where she lives the ascetic, devotional life of a novice nun, through a revolution that abolishes the religious lifestyle she has become accustomed to, and finally to the United States, where her life ends in the wake of the American Dream.
With the legacy of Magical Surrealism and a mixture of traditional historical fiction and a tone of fatalistic premonitions of destiny, Goldman is able to convey a feeling of Latin American prose that matches the setting of this novel. The adjective liminal comes to mind when I think of this book. Maria de las Nieves, the protagonist of this novel, is a liminal character, in her parentage (Native and European), her straddling of the religious and secular worlds, and her economic status as both childhood friend of the wife of a wealthy and powerful dictator and lowly secretary and working mother. Maria lives in a liminal world, at the turn of a century, placing her life in both the romantic past and recognizable recent decades, in a changing environment of revolution, and in the midsts of discovering a new world in America. I think this is why this book held my attention, despite both its length and my relative ignorance of the culture and history of the part of the world in which this tale takes place.
Goldman writes as if time is not linear, shifting back and forth in time, and keeps some mysteries of Maria’s life shrouded. If you are looking for clearly wrapped details and answers at the end of this book, then you will be disappointed. While I still had some questions by the time I closed the cover, I think that my reaction is what Goldman was aiming for. His portrait of a woman is impressive, and while he lays bear most of the details of her life, we are never really in Maria’s head. We women are complex and mysterious creatures, and Goldman captures the aura of these qualities in Maria’s secrets. I appreciated Goldman’s adept portrayal of one of my own sex and found it invigorating to read something so very different. Reading this book made me want to branch out more with the type of literature I read, and isn’t variety a good thing?