|Image courtesy of MacMillan Web site|
St. Martin's Press
St. Martin's Griffin
Publication May 2013
Welcome to the Literary Wives Virtual Book Club for 2014!
We now have a Facebook page for those who would like to participate and/or follow along.
Our first read for 2014 (February) is an excellently written historical novel about the Inquisition in Seville in 1481.
I probably would not have read this particular novel if not for participation in the Literary Wives Online Book Discussion Group. Not due to lack of interest overall, but lack of time to read all the books in which I am really interested! (I'm sure many of you can relate...) I am very glad I did not miss this one! I would compare my reaction to this book to that of Daughters of the Witching Hill by Mary Sharratt and Impatient with Desire by Gabrielle Burton. These comparisons simply relate to my reaction to the subject matter and such accurate writing skills more than anything else.
I am quite the wuss when reading--very little blood, guts, and gore. I just can't handle it; it stays in my head and freaks me out! :) I was fearful that this particular book might prove too gruesome for me, but I could handle the rough stuff Kalogridis included. (For which I was grateful and breathed a sigh of relief when finished!) However, I believe details and the overall story of all three of these books will never leave my mind. They are indelibly inscribed into my memory, and I think that's a good thing. I appreciate knowing more about history, and I feel it is never better learned than through the perspective of a person. I so appreciate the amazing talents of these historical fiction authors! There are too many to name here.
I was unaware of the purely political and financial motivations of Queen Isabel for the Inquisition in Seville. I don't know how much monetary motivations played into the Inquisition overall, but according to Kalogridis and her research, it was the main factor in Seville. I had no idea about Old Christian vs. New Christian at that time, nor of the persistence and constancy of persecution of Jews, seemingly everywhere and at all times in the history of our world! I never cease to ask myself..."Why?" Why must we humans persecute each other? I am still hopeful that humanity overall is capable of "beating" this "disease"! Surely we will reach a point in "our story" when we no longer persecute each other, period...no matter what the criteria!
Another reason I might not have read this book is that I personally no longer have any attraction to "organized religion" overall, believing as Christopher Hitchens did, that "religion poisons everything." Since I try not to concentrate on negativity in my life, I purposefully don't read much of what I consider to be negative. However, with that said, I am glad I am motivated to expand my horizons occasionally and read what I might have otherwise avoided; it helps me further clarify my own beliefs and expand my knowledge base.
In short, as you may already know, I don't summarize each book, but prefer to present my own reactions to it. Summaries can be found elsewhere quite easily.
Now to the "wife" questions and my thoughts...
1) What does this book say about the experience of wives or about the experience of
being a wife?
Okay, I'll just say this first. Marriage typically includes sex--(traditionally) monogamous sex. But poor Marisol never gets to experience that in the course of this book, though she does come close, and not necessarily in a good way. I absolutely loved the scene where she opens the "other" door in her bedroom and sees not a closet, as she believed it to be, but her own husband, still drunk, holding a candle for light, stark naked with quite an erection. "I parted my lips, fascinated, and held my ground: part of me wanted nothing to do with Gabriel, but another part of me longed to be touched by a man... I [was] praying that he would take me then, while hoping just as fervently that he would not." So very realistic! Especially for a 17-year-old female, someone with absolutely no sexual experience whatsoever--the attraction and the aversion! But no sex for her!
For Marisol, as an Old Christian, suspected of being a converso, being a wife was simply a "protection" perpetrated upon her by her father. He (mistakenly) thought by forcing his daughter to marry Gabriel, she would be protected from the newly instituted Inquisition laws, sparing her any possible imprisonment and specifically, her life. As one would expect in 1481, a "wife" really had no rights other than those assigned/allowed by her husband. She was still basically considered property of the man and he could do as he pleased with and to her. A wife was to obey and acquiesce, no matter what.
2) In what way does this woman define "wife"--or in what way is she defined by "wife"?
Her relationship with Antonio was as much that of a true wife as any, certainly much more so than with Gabriel. In my opinion, a wife should be able to love and respect her partner, as well as expect the same in return. That certainly was not and (in my opinion) never would have been the case with Gabriel. He was purely motivated by greed, obsession, and manipulation. (Admittedly, I could easily imagine doing great harm to this man and being quite satisfied doing so...) And we can conclude Gabriel was controlling Antonio and Marisol's relationship from afar once they were separated geographically, so without his interference, I believe (perhaps I just hope) that they would have had a completely happy and mutually beneficial partnership as husband and wife. Marisol was totally defined by her role as "wife" to a great degree, although she quickly learned to match wits with those who would manipulate and control her, until she finally discovered the truth. Admittedly, I was uncertain who was going to live or die in this novel, but I was glad she would live to establish a new life.
I felt Marisol extended her life beyond the typical role of "wife" and it was a good thing she did, because I don't believe she'd have had a chance of living had she not done so. Even if you aren't certain you'd like to learn more about this era and the Inquisition, I would highly recommend this book as an enlightening and uplifting read. I respect anyone who endured such humiliation, torture, even death, and retained their sense of self-respect, morality, and most of all, compassion.
Check out the other bloggers' reviews as well:
Ariel of One Little Library
Audra of Unabridged Chick
Carolyn of Rosemary and Reading Glasses
Cecilia of Only You
Kay of whatmeread
|Image from Diane Ackerman's Web site|
The Zookeeper's Wife, a War Story
by Diane Ackerman.
Reviews to be posted the first Monday in April.
I am very anxious to read this one, having had it recommended to me by so many people!