Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Josefina’s Sin – Claudia H. Long

Publisher:  Atria Books (August, 2011)
Pages: 352
Source:  I received a review copy from the publisher

A thrilling and passionate debut about a sheltered landowner’s wife whose life is turned upside down when she visits the royal court in seventeenth-century Mexico.
When Josefina accepts an invitation from the Marquessa to come stay and socialize with the intellectual and cultural elite in her royal court, she is overwhelmed by the Court’s complicated world. She finds herself having to fight off aggressive advances from the Marquessa’s husband, but is ultimately unable to stay true to her marriage vows when she becomes involved in a secret affair with the local bishop that leaves her pregnant.

Amidst this drama, Josefina finds herself unexpectedly drawn to the intellectual nuns who study and write poetry at the risk of persecution by the Spanish Inquisition that is overtaking Mexico. One nun in particular, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, teaches Josefina about poetry, writing, critical thinking, the nature and consequences of love, and the threats of the Holy Office. She is Josefina’s mentor and lynchpin for her tumultuous passage from grounded wife and mother to woman of this treacherous, confusing, and ultimately physically and intellectually fulfilling world.

My thoughts:
Josefina is a typical woman living in 17th Century Mexico.  Josefina has always taken care of the men in her life.  First, her father when her mother died ,and now her husband, Manuel Coronado.  She is a good wife and mother as is expected of her during the time period.  Women of that time had very few rights.  Josefina, like many women of the time period, dreams of more in their life.  She is invited to the Spanish Royal Court.  Through trial and error she learns much more about court life than she had expected.  She finds herself in an extramarital affair with a bishop.

The time period is so well written the reader feels as if they are a part of it.  I could envision what the characters were eating and wearing,  I could visualize their lifestyles and how hard it was for women of that time.  I could understand how feminists like Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz could choose to step out of and speak about unspeakable things through poetry at a risk to her own life.

This was a well written book.  It is not one of my favorite time periods but the book was still enjoyable.

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