MEMOIRS OF LETICIA VALLE by Rosa Chacel

MEMOIRS OF LETICIA VALLE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 First published in 1945 and now making its US debut: in luminous prose, an elliptical tale of seduction from one of Spain's leading women writers. Set between the wars in provincial Spain, the story is related by an 11-year-old girl who, while precocious in vocabulary, is still a child in understanding, which makes her seduction by her tutor quite credible. This ``inconceivable act'' is recalled a year later because the narrator, now separated from everything she worshipped--``as if those things had hurt me''--decides to write everything down ``so they will never be erased in my memory.'' The only daughter of a man badly wounded fighting in Africa--her mother's absence is never fully explained--she lives with her father and aunt. An observant child, she determines the cause of her father's slurred speech by daily measuring the household cognac. The family moves to the small town of Simancas, a place where her father ``could get some fresh air without having to make such an effort.'' Here, Leticia attends embroidery classes given by the local mistress, puzzles over her father and aunt's unease, and explores the town, but it is her meeting with Donna Luisa that will transform her life. A young mother and musician, Donna Luisa has a quality that Leticia calls ``worldly, which was nothing other than a perfect ease about everything in the world.'' The two become close friends, and it seems fitting that husband Daniel, the local archivist, tutor the young girl. It is her evolving relationship with Daniel that Leticia, limited by knowledge and experience, tries to understand and describe as it moves to its inevitable and desired consummation. A close read, but ultimately rich and rewarding in its sensitively nuanced evocation of awakening sexuality and passion. A notable debut.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8032-1456-1
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1994