Elena Medel is a Spanish award winning poet, and this is her debut novel. My thanks go to Algonquin and Net Galley for the invitation to read and review.
I am initially excited to be asked to read a work of fiction that “brings a half century of the feminist movement to life,” but in most regards, the magic has escaped me. I suspect part of this may be cultural, and/or a matter of translation, because the style is very different from North American and British novels. A single paragraph may last for pages, and there are vast swaths of internal monologue that leave me checking the page count.
And yet, there are some fine moments here. I can’t recall having seen a novel that demonstrates so decisively what happens to a woman that is not given the choice to terminate a pregnancy, or what kind of life the child is likely to have. We begin with Maria, who is completely disinterested in her baby, and almost immediately leaves her with her mother, parenting only by sending money home as she is able. She works the night shift, facing danger and harassment constantly.
Her daughter Alicia is not only disinterested in motherhood, but never develops human attachments. She takes joy in hurting other people, physically and emotionally, from an early age. She makes no true friends, and she doesn’t want any. Her character chills me to the bone.
Although it isn’t an enjoyable read for me, I recommend it to a niche audience, those that have a particular interest in international feminist literature. It will be available to the North American public tomorrow, March 1, 2023.