Barranquilla, Colombia, may have spawned a legendary group of male writers in the middle of the last century—Gabriel García Márquez included—but young women living there did not enjoy an equally magical time.
Moreno, an associate of García Márquez and the famed “Barranquilla Group,” delivers a comprehensive indictment of the conditions facing woman in that coastal Colombian city in the 1950s. Related from the point of view of the preternaturally observant Lina, who's looking back on her hometown from an expatriate life in Paris, the novel focuses on the experiences of three young women—Dora, Catalina, and Beatriz—exposing the city's sexual violence, misogyny, classism, and racism in sharp and unrelenting detail. Railroaded or goaded into marriages and relationships that rarely served to benefit their own sexual or financial interests, the three women experience varying degrees of disenchantment or outright self-destruction in the process. Shadowy Lina, whose life experiences seem to echo some of Moreno’s own, relates the advice and admonitions dispensed by a chorus of older women, her aunts and a grandmother, who have seen all the harms done by generations of men gone before. Each young woman’s story is told with elaborate attention to her history and lineage and those of the men who ensnare and inveigle her into nightmarish alliances. Patience is required to discern the interlocking web of family and professional connections within the provincial city, and the detail with which Moreno traces who wound up where, when, and with whom may be daunting to the casual reader. Translated into English for the first time since the novel’s publication in 1987, Moreno’s dense and incrementally meandering prose recites a litany of suffering layered upon suffering.
Man’s inhumanity to (wo)man couldn’t be made any clearer.