Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Gioconda Belli, The Inhabited Woman (1989)

I read this book because a friend lent it to me when she saw that I was reading Latin American novels. It's probably one of my less-lovable traits: I always feel annoyed at having my reading imposed upon in this way. I want to read what I want to read, how dare anyone make me modify my plans argh! And especially if someone actually gives you a book; if they just recommend it, it's easy to make vague, affirmative noises and then keep doing what you're doing, but in that case, you really feel obligated. Hey, as I say, I'm not saying these are particularly admirable thought processes, just that I have them.

It's also unfair to the books in question, as they start with a strike against them. But okay okay, this book was not at all unpleasant to read. I admit it! Belli (1948- ) is a Nicaraguan author who participated in the anti-Samoza underground movement in the seventies and later played a role in the Sandanista government. This autobiographical-ish novel is about that resistance in a lightly veiled version of Nicaragua. Lavinia is a woman from a privileged upper-class upbringing who becomes involved in the movement, at first kind of accidentally, and then with greater determination. But there's a twist! Sort of. Which is that she's inhabited (BOOM) by the spirit of an Indian warrior woman who had resisted Spanish colonization of the area back in the day, and who comments on and influences her thinking. And...that's the twist.

Yeah, I dug it, once I got into it. It's interesting (if maybe possibly slightly underdone) on gender and social class (INTERSECTIONALITY!), and it's frequently just plain exciting. The only thing I didn't super care for is, actually, the whole inhabiting business, even though from reading the back cover, that had seemed like the most interesting thing to me. In theory, it allows for outside commentary on the story, and lets the one model of resistance mirror the other. And, I mean, okay, I guess in fact, too. But I thought it pretty superfluous (if not a touch orientalist in places--or whatever the New World equivalent of "orientalist" is), and not developed enough to be of much interest. I don't want to overstate the case; it's not like this stuff actually takes up much space in the novel. But whenever it cropped up, I was eager for it to be over. Is all.

Whatever, it's all good, I liked it, it wasn't quite something I would've read under ordinary circumstances, but ya know, sometimes it's good to be pushed out of one's comfort zone. I give this a reasonable number of stars out of an only somewhat larger number of stars.


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