The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War
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The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  897 ratings  ·  133 reviews
An electrifying memoir from the acclaimed Nicaraguan writer ("A wonderfully free and original talent"—Harold Pinter) and central figure in the Sandinista Revolution.

Until her early twenties, Gioconda Belli inhabited an upper-class cocoon: sheltered from the poverty in Managua in a world of country clubs and debutante balls; educated abroad; early marriage and motherhood....more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published October 14th 2003 by Anchor (first published 2000)
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Harry Rutherford
The Country Under My Skin is a memoir of the Nicaraguan revolution. Belli grew up in a wealthy family but joined the Sandinistas, working secretly for the resistance until she had to flee the country and live in exile until the Sandinistas took power and she could return to Nicaragua. It’s not just a political memoir, though; it is also the story of her marriages and love affairs.

She is clearly a remarkable woman — an award-winning poet, incidentally, as well as everything else — and it is fasci...more
Jul 12, 2007 Dani rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
This book empowered me to forward thinking. This is great feminist, political and historical literature. Gioconda Belli writes in such a way that the reader feels that their traveling down memory road alongside the author. A great book and difficult to put down, The Country Under My skin is a very worthwhile book to read. Viva la Revolucion!!! Hasta la Muerte!
Seriously what a great book. Amazing woman. Giving it to all my friends for their birthdays, you've been warned!
This is an intriguing memoir of a woman born into the Nicaraguan upper class, whose experiences and insights cause her to join the Sandinista revolution, work in the Ortega administration, marry an American reporter from NPR and move to Santa Monica, California. What a fascinating life and what multiple perspectives she develops through these experiences.

I have recently read memoirs of other women revolutionaries from Cuba and Russia among others, and have developed more of a knowledge base for...more
Mar 13, 2012 Katherine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Spanish readers
Recommended to Katherine by: Ricado
I would definitely make this more of a 4.5 out of 5 stars. This was such a beautiful personal account of Gioconda Belli's journey into Sandinista activism and love affairs with multiple intellectual figures that drove many of her life decisions. One of the best factors of what made this story so precious was really her writing style, and I did read this in Spanish. I heard the English translation doesn't leave the same impression, but for those who can do it, please read the Spanish version. I l...more
An amazing memoir by a totally fearless Nicaraguan woman who was/is a revolutionary, guerrilla fighter, poet, novelist, lover, and mother of four...An extraordinary human being. Beautifully told, I read it in the original Spanish, it's available in English as "The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War" by Gioconda Belli and Kristina Cordero. I'd be curious to see how the translation into English turned out.

I had read her novel Mujer habitada/Inhabited Woman many years ago and loved it...more
Diane Ramirez
Gioconda is a writer of great talents and a compelling story -- she was intimately connected with the Sandinista revolution from the beginning of the 1970s. However....

I get the feeling this wasn't the best way for me to discover her. What started out as a surprised "she knew EVERYBODY!" became, after so many chapters, a near parody of a revolutionary memoir. Gioconda Belli knew everybody, apparently every male she encountered (including presidents and generals) found her irresistible, she alway...more
Sarah Keliher
It happens to all of us. You meet someone - at a party, maybe, or a coffee shop - someone so beautiful you feel slightly blinded, and when you try to talk it just comes out all garbled and stupid. Your hands twist and your heart constricts, like you're trying to curl up into yourself for safety. I feel like that about this book. Rendered stupid and inarticulate, cut to the quick. Her story goes beyond the particulars of one time and place to say something profound about the universal experience...more
i first saw this book (the english translation - the country under my skin) while working at a bookstore. the cover both intrigued and repelled me. a machine gun, a crucifix on a necklace, highheels and cartoon palm trees on a t-shirt. ultimately, i think it was the high heels that kept me a way. a couple years later, upon meeting my brother-in-law to-be, he presented me with a book by his aunt. a book about his nicaraguan roots. the book? el pais bajo mi piel. belli is passionate, daring to do...more
An easy to read account of life in Nicaragua just before, during and after the Sandanista revolution in 1979.

Gioconda relates her story as only someone both on the inside of a political upheaval and an artist can. That makes it an interesting story revealing both her romance with the revolution and her disillusionment. It is not a historical text and is limited to the perspective of just one person, but at the same time, much more entertaining and personal because of the real life confusion and...more
Sarah Macdonald
I have mixed reactions about this book. On one hand, it is a unique perspective on the Sandinista movement from someone who knew their inner workings. Also, we rarely hear of the women's involvement in such revolutions, so it's an even more intriguing perspective. However, I found Belli herself to be a privileged, name-dropping narcissist whose personal life was horrifyingly shallow. As she demonizes those she cheated on to justify her many affairs, and glosses over the fact she was largely abse...more
Andrea Rizzo
I read this book just before my first trip to Nicaragua. It was a good primer on what life was like before and after the earthquake, but more importantly, all about the revolution from an insider's perspective. The fact that the author was a feminist and poet made it even more fascinating.
I was completely enthralled and captivated by this book and could not put it down. It is an amazing story and I would recommend it to anyone. You will learn about Nicaragua's history and at the same time be in constant suspense about the events and choices that determine and transform the life of a fearless, spirited woman and poet trying to make a difference. In the midst of a war, revolution, and a whirlwind of change, Gioconda Belli goes through her life following her convictions at the same...more
Gijs Grob
'De verdiging van de Liefde' is een autobiografie, niet zozeer van de schrijfster Gioconda Belli, alswel van de Sandinista Gioconda Belli. In dit boek is Belli voornamelijk revolutiestrijder, en wanneer de Sandinisten worden weggestemd bij de eerste vrije verkiezingen van Nicaragua in 1990, eindigt dit boek ook.

Belli is ongelooflijk lyrisch over haar revolutionaire periode. Niet dat ze deze kritiekloos beschrijft - ze beoordeelt zichzelf hier en daar als naïef en kijkt soms met lichte verbazing...more
Gioconda Belli komt op haar 20ste in contact met de Sandinistische verzetsstrijders van Daniel Ortega. Ze sluit zich aan bij het FSLN, de partij van de Sandinisten. Vijf jaar lang doet ze werk voor het verzet in Nicaragua, maar in 1975 moet Belli vluchten naar het buitenland. Tijdens haar ballingschap verblijft ze in Costa Rica en Mexico. Bij verstek wordt ze door het regime van dictator Somoza veroordeeld tot zeven jaar gevangenisstraf.[return]Vlak voor de overwinning van de Sandinisten in 1979...more
Just before starting this book I was thinking that I wanted to read more memoirs. I don't know a lot of details about the revolution in Nicaragua. I read a book over a decade ago about the Sandanistas and all I can really remember about it is that things didn't exactly turn out as promised. The book was written in Spanish, I read the translated version, which at times did not seem to flow. The first hundred pages or so were harder for me to get through. Another book club member who read it in Sp...more
David Cupples
Read as part of my research for a major writing project. Good reading if you want to know more about life and times in Latin America, specifically Nicaragua, especially during the Sandinista Revolution, which was finally successful in 1979, and especially too from a woman's point of view. You can believe without a shred of a doubt that that was a big worry to US government--a second successful revolution to follow on the heels of Castro's overthrow of the Batista dictatorship in Cuba; the Contra...more
This is Gioconda Belli's autobiography- so I guess she gets to tell the story she wants. Belli was born to the Nicaraguan elite. In her early 20s, she defies her families expectations and secretly joins the nascent Sandinista movement to oust the US-backed Somosa regime. Over time, as the Sandinista movement grows, she rises to the top of its ranks all the while becoming one of Latin America's most celebrate poets. Her rise to the top, and her fight to stay there, is impressive and fascinating....more
This is the first full book that I've read in Spanish! It was slow at first because I felt this weird pressure to look up every single word I didn't know, and since Belli is a poet there were a lot. As my Spanish got better I started being able to read more fluidly and I felt more confident about picking up stuff from context, rather than constantly combing the dictionary. (Don't worry, it's available in English translation too.)

El Pais Bajo Mi Piel (The Country Under My Skin) is the memoir of G...more
Oct 16, 2007 Kecia rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Central American history
I'm on the fence wether I liked this one or not. One the one hand the inside story of the Sandanistas was interesting but on the other hand she spent more time on childbirth than on her reasons for joining the Sandanistas. I never got a real sense of why she did what she did. The only people in the story that I developed any sympathy for were her husbands and children whom she neglected.

I finished the book with many more questions than answers...why did the Sandanistas revere a dictator, Castro...more
I read this book before reading Blood of Brothers and it was an excellent book to start out with. Gioconda's telling of life during the Nicaraguan revolution was exciting. The Sandanistas were disciplined and wanted a shot at ruling their country without dictators or US intervention. Her story is told during those years with death and heartache all around. She puntuates her personal anecdoes with stories of another fallen comrade or the difficulties of balancing her work and dangerous romances.

I read this in Spanish right after visiting Nicaragua, so I think I liked it in a way I wouldn't have if I had just picked it up with no connection. Though the narrator has her flaws, I found the book to be a fascinating exploration of the quieter parts of revolution: the personal struggles, the internal battles, what you do about running a country once you win. And you how fall in and out of love in the middle of war.
I read Belli's book of fiction The Inhabited Woman in Spanish a few years ago and loved it. Reading this autobiography made me realize the many parallels between her real life and the fiction she wrote. An upperclass Nicaraguan woman who was part of the Sandinista struggle and ended up in exile, Belli is also a much lauded poet. I have read quite a bit about the different revolutionary movements in Latin America in the 70's and 80's and this book had the same effect on me as the others I've read...more
I really enjoyed this book. I initially picked it up to learn more about the Sandinista revolution but was really drawn in with the author's ability to politicize aspects of her personal experience within that struggle. She details experiences of struggling to have her voice heard amongst a male dominated movement. One of the limitations of this book, as a memoir of a revolutionary period, is an analysis of what the Sandinista movement was about. We never really get a sense of the politics behin...more
I felt that the content of this book did not resemble that of the book jacket. I was expecting a story about a woman who struggled to balance her motherly duties and her clandestine life as a revolutionary.
In reality, the book spends a significant amount of time discussing Belli's love affairs.

As a gal who greatly enjoys tales of romance and scandal, I was expecting more satisfaction.

Kytka Hilmar-Jezek
I wanted to read this book prior to moving to Central America just to learn more about the new place that was to be my home. It provided me with a deep understanding of how a woman may relate to the people there. Aside from that though, Giaconda's story took me on a journey of the emotions, heart and spirit that I did not expect. I felt I was in a moving poem the entire time I read it; a surreal veiled world and now I was one of the one's chosen to see the subtle veils lifted. What an intimate p...more
This book is an excellent way to learn about the history of Nicaragua's Sandinista revolution in the 1970s, but it is also a wonderful story of a how a woman learns to balance her dreams and ambitions with her desire to have love, children, and a fulfilling personal life. Giaconda Belli is inspiring because she went out and fought for what was right, defying social standards and standing up for what she believed in, yet she is a woman like the rest of us.

It is an educational book but also an in...more
Eva Chafi
Me gustó muchísimo.
La autobiografía de Gioconda Belli, habla de la Revolución Nicaragüense, de los amores, de sus hijas... Adoré que los capítulos saltaran de manera bastante libre en el tiempo y que fuera una historia real.
Fue una lectura completamente atrapante, y la recomiendo a quien le guste el género realista. Ni demasiado romántica ni únicamente política, con alguna traza hasta de aventura, creo que es un libro que puede ser leído por una amplio rango de lectores.
"He thought I was acting like a bourgeois, finicky woman. He managed to make me feel guilty; spoiled. He insisted that the doctors were good, they were doing the right thing. The other women accepted it, why couldn't I do the same? I resented the way he dismissed my claims, my desire for more humane medical treatment. I didn't just want it for myself. I wanted it for all women, I said. Sergio's attitude was typical of the left. He believed that true revolutionaries should endure the same injusti...more
Meera Boghani
Read it while visiting Nicaragua. The book gives history of the Sandinista revolution seen from the eye of an insider. She is a fearless woman.
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“Dare to change the world

There is nothing quixotic or romantic in wanting to change the world. It is possible. It is the age-old vocation of all humanity. I can't think of a better life than one dedicated to passion, to dreams, to the stubborness that defies chaos and disillusionment.”
“For me, the Revolution sought to end mistreatment, not to democratize it.” 0 likes
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