An emotionally charged and beautifully constructed novella from the acclaimed Spanish author of City of Marvels (1988) and The Truth About the Savolta Case (1992). Initially set in the 1950s in a small town in the province of Barcelona, it's the story of Sister Consuela, a young nun recently appointed Mother Superior of her convent, which operates a charity hospital and hopes to establish an old people's home. During her several visits to the mountaintop home of Don Augusto AixelÖ, a wealthy landowner who had opposed Republican rebels throughout the country's civil war and thereafter prospered, the Sister finds herself tolerating, even enjoying the rakish urbanity of the nobleman from whom she seeks financial help, and eventually, to her mingled joy and despair, falling in love with him. Attempting to atone for her lapses, Sister Consuela is forcibly brought into the presence of Don Augusto's enemies, and even finds herself joining in a gun battle (``I don't know whether God is putting me to the test, or making fun of me''). Thirty years later, all passions spent, she learns of an ironic conjunction, despite their long separation, of her lover's fate with her own. And, in a moving conclusion worthy of Garc°a M†rquez at his most inspired, we learn exactly what Sister Consuela's past has meant to her and how it has changed--and might have further changed--her life. Mendoza infuses this spare, haunting tale with telling characterizations, vivid descriptions of storms and floods (which foreshadow and parallel the nun's disturbed emotions), and suggestive symbolism (the hulking presences of threatening guard dogs; Sister Consuela's misguided entry into a meat larder where freshly killed game hangs). A brilliantly orchestrated demonstration of the ambiguities of moral action and the variety and depth of human personality--and, not incidentally, a suspenseful and absorbing story as well. A gem.