Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sister Teresa by Barbara Mujica

I wish I could say that I liked Sister Teresa, a novel by Barbara Mujica recounting the life of St. Teresa of Ávila. I even read it twice to convince myself that there was something to the book that I just hadn't found. But, alas.

Granted, Mujica's Teresa is an interesting, multi-faceted character. She's not a sweet saint-- she manipulative, ruthless, loving, and intellectual, a woman to be respected even over a backdrop of the Spanish Inquisition. It's not the characterization that gets me, it's the writing style.

I know I harp on writing style a lot in these reviews, but it truly affects my ability to fully enjoy a book. I also think that it's a bit of a cop out to use a a fictional, modern-day translator who only appears one time in the whole novel, just to be able to be rid of some of your own writing responsibility. Mujica's translator mentions that she found this hagiography in a market and tried to make the prose sound as informal as possible, leading to a novel full of anachronistic language. It takes me out of the time period, leaving me consciously out of the story. Frustrating.

I don't really want to expend any more words on this book. Suffice it to say that if you're interested in Inquistion-era Spain, nunneries, or saints, this is a book you can afford to spend a few minutes on. Otherwise, give it a miss.

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