THE HACIENDA: A Memoir by Lisa "*St. Aubin de Ter‡n
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The mesmerizing tale of a young Englishwoman's strange life in the backward world of a remote South American sugar plantation during the early 1970s. When St. Aubin de Teran was a mere schoolgirl of 16, she met a political exile from Venezuela, Jaime de Ter§n, a man in his late 30es. He pursued her doggedly and, she agreed to marry him when she was 17. They spent the next three years traveling around Europe with some of his fellow exiles (but without much money). Jaime was an odd character, given to extended bouts of strange behavior, but the ever-flexible teenager made nothing of it. When an amnesty made it possible for him to return home to the family estate--a sugar cane plantation the Andes--he and his child-bride moved there. St. Aubin de Ter§n tells of her years (1971-79) on the feudal Ter§n estate with a small and vulnerable daughter, a fiercely loyal pet buzzard, and a homicidally insane husband. He is the last scion of an ancient (and inbred) aristocratic clan. Managment of the estate fell largely on her inexperienced shoulders. The many families who live in near-servitude on the plantation are impoverished and suffer from terrible diseases in addition to all manner of self-inflicted misfortune. Indeed, the author has enough misfortunes of her own, but they don't get the better of her. This remarkable book is striking for its cannily articulate, vivid, yet always understated prose style. It grips the reader from beginning to end. St. Aubin de Ter§n writes with the dispassionate eye of a cultural anthropologist and the story-telling craftsmanship of the novelist she is (Nocturne, 1993, etc.). One only wishes for more photos than the 19 she supplies. There is no picture of the buzzard, for example, one of the tale's most interesting figures. A memoir of conspicuously powerful narrative force, never sentimental or self-indulgent.

Pub Date: April 8th, 1998
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: "Little, Brown"