Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Penguin Classics Book Club

Penguin books has announced their classic book choice – it is:




Who Would Have Thought It? by Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton

Just add another book to my ever growing “to read” list.

I have NEVER heard of this book – have you?

I’m always thrilled to read women authors who have successfully written and had published books when it was a tough journey to do so. And from a Mexican-American author – kudos!

From Publisher’s Weekly:

The insights into class and race in this clever satire set during and after the Civil War give it a thoroughly contemporary feel. It is even more astounding, then, to learn that it was first published in 1872, and that the author was not even a native English speaker. Burton (The Squatter and the Don) was a Baja California native who married a colonel in the Union Army, and here she combines to good effect both solid insider information and her perspective as an outsider. Dr. Norval returns to New England from a trip west carrying more than luggage. While in an Indian camp, Norval rescued a ten-year-old girl, whose mother was a kidnapped Mexican woman desperate to return Lola to the girl's father. Lola is scorned both by the local gentry, who believe she is either black or Indian, and by the doctor's wife?at least until Dr. Norval reveals that she was accompanied by a lot of gold. When word of her wealth gets out, Lola is treated like a lady as the townspeople begin complex plans to get close to her and her money. The details are exquisite. Burton excels at picking names for these supposedly good Christians, from Mrs. Cackle to the Reverends Hackwell and Hammerhard. In short chapters with titles like "Potations, Plotting and Propriety," Burton details the intricate mess of love and proposals?both honest and contrived. A thorough introduction traces specific themes like the novel's precocious portrayal of women entering the public sphere, and footnotes lend helpful historical background. In the end it is the story that counts, though, and this is a fully entertaining read that stands on its own against much of today's fiction.