Friday, 2 September 2011

Book Review: Benito Perez Galdos- Two Tales of Married Women

Fortunata and Jacinta: Two Stories of Married Women (Penguin Classics)Fortunata and Jacinta: Two Stories of Married Women by Benito Pérez Galdós

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Galdos is the Spanish Dickens. He's completely underrated and if you like Victorian literature you are certain to like this too.



Galdós, Benito Pérez, Fortunata and Jacinta. Two Stories of Married Women. Translated with an Introductionby Anges Moncy Gullón. The University of Georgia Press. Athens. 1985.

Galdós masterpiece work Fortunata y Jacinta: Two stories of married women is , an accurately drawn social portrait of nineteenth century Madrid. Written in four parts from 1886-1887. According to Turner, who wrote the introduction for Fortunata and Jacinta , the novel is set in the following historical background: Carlist wars, palace of intrigues, the revolution of 1868, an overthrow of the Queen Isabella, the brief reign of Amadeo of Savoy, the abort of the First Republic and the Bourbon restoration ( Alfonso XII ).

The book depicts both the lower class and bourgeois society through two female Fortunata and Jacinta. Galdós weaves a witty, entertaining yet complicated and engaging plot. The story is told between huge dynasties, and close knit families where cousins marry cousins and your next door neighbor is likely to be your relative. Set in Madrid Spain, Galdós true to the tenets of realism, gives the reader an actual true to life portrayal of the shopkeepers, egg sellers, hookers, merchants, clerks, government officials, aristocracy, entrepreneurs, and neighbor all coming and going vibrantly within the stark contrast of the lower, and upper class neighborhoods of Madrid. Galdós powerful use of imagery gives you a feeling of being in Madrid: smelling the smell of hot chocolate and doughnuts, smelling the rain or seeing the mist frost a train window. Hearing the loud mouth vulgar hookers and gypsies that put their hands on their hips, or whether it’s with the bourgeois Santa Cruz family enjoying a night at the Opera at the Royal Theatre of Madrid not so much because they enjoy opera, but because they can afford to go. Perhaps, Barbara Santa Cruz taking a trip to the tailors in Madrid’s finest boutiques to buy the best chambray linen or going shopping to buy the best sirloin and the best tobacco for her husband Baldomero to enjoy on Sundays.

Galdós writing is a great historian much of his writing takes place in the 1870´s, during the Alfonsine era of Spain. Fortunata and Jacinta is such an intellectually rich novel that it can be analyzed on many levels: psychologically, historically, religiously, and even from the feminist point of view. Galdós tells this story in four parts, as each part subsequently unfolds it draws you deeper into the mystery of these interesting, yet all too human and loveable characters. With characters as real and familiar we can not help but recognize ourselves are shortcomings and at the same time our beauty.

What is unique about Galdós, that I haven’t seen in the Russian and French writers is his complete absorption and intricate detail that is at once captivating and intriguing. His narrative structure and style is utterly powerful and mesmerizing drawing the reader, into the unknown world of Madrid Spain in the late nineteenth century, where the use of the phaeton was still in vogue and it was customary for women to wear a flower in their hair. In the introduction of Fortunata and Jacinta, Page after page, Galdós, tells this story and you don’t want to put the book down. This should be required reading for anyone studying World Literature so they can compare with other writers from the realism literary movement like Dickens, and Balzac.





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