Saturday, 17 September 2016

Review: The Infamous Miss Rodriguez by Lydia San Andres

4 stars

In The Infamous Miss Rodriguez, Lydia San Andres has delivered another delightful story, set on the same fictional island in the Spanish Caribbean as her previous two books. It's a novella, but it's very well done, meaty enough to make for great reading, but not too meaty that it founders within a novella format. 

Nobody will listen to Graciela Rodriguez when she says that she doesn't want to marry Alvaro Medina, so she's taking matters into her own hands. She hopes that, if she creates a scandal, her well-to-do fiance will break the engagement. The sticking point is that none of her shocking acts are making their way through the grapevine. Unbeknownst to Graciela, that's due to Vincente Aguirre, who has been working with her guardian to prevent Graciela from sabotaging her engagement. But the more time Vincente spends with Graciela, the less inclined he is perform his role and ensure the wedding goes ahead. 

San Andres has such a strength for conveying the struggles and strictures of gender and class with extreme nuance. For Graciela, there's the sense that she's powerless to control her own life, and anger and annoyance at the microaggressions her fiance is constantly committing. As Vincente notes, Alvaro treats Graciela "as if she were a puppy yipping at his heels - tiresome, but too inconsequential to bother with" (loc. 300), and yet he doesn't treat her badly, so she doesn't have any cause to break the engagement. 

Graciela's experiences were so vividly and emotively written that it felt heart-achingly familiar. The part of me that is sick of the male microaggressions wishes that the horrible, dismissive fiance had received more comeuppance for his classism and sexism. But that's rarely achieved today, let alone in 1911, and anyway, probably the best comeuppance Vincente and Graciela can provide is to happily live their life. And I feel sure that they will do just that, because they were so good together. 

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