A SECRET FOR JULIA by Patricia Sagastizabal


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This turgid psychological tale, winner of a major Latin American literary prize, dramatizes (just barely) the ordeal of an Argentinean woman living in 1990s London, after surviving imprisonment and torture during the ’70s as an accused enemy of her homeland’s oppressive military government. Single mother Mercedes Beecham loses herself in postgraduate study at London University, bonding hesitantly with strangers whom she interviews for a thesis project, while deflecting her teenaged daughter’s impatient queries about the father Julia has never known—and eluding a “stalker” who bears a disturbing resemblance to one of her former jailers. Sagastizábal has contrived a promising fictional situation, and the resolution is indeed gripping. But it takes her 150-plus pages to reveal particulars Mercedes has (understandably) repressed. Along the way, the story is submerged by far too many vague hyperbolic utterances (“My fear and tortured past clung to my brain with barbaric cruelty,” etc.). A worthy conception, deserving of better treatment than it receives here.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-393-05044-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2001