This is truly a travel narrative. Gellhorn calls them horror journeys, selecting the worst of her traveling experiences for this book. Martha GellhornThis is truly a travel narrative. Gellhorn calls them horror journeys, selecting the worst of her traveling experiences for this book. Martha Gellhorn was an accomplished war reporter and was familiar with uncomfortable travel accommodations, but that was during war time. I got the sense she didn't like camping (refuses to while in Africa doing her own safari) and going to remote places could resemble camping.
The book starts out, after some introductions, with her desired trip to China. There aren't dates mentioned but she convinces her husband Ernest Hemingway to accompany her, which means sometime in early 1940s. (They were only married about four years.) The China trip is appalling in her descriptions, their main goal is really just to survive.
The bulk of the book covers her trip to Africa some years later. Traveling alone as a woman and for the sake of seeing what's there was quite unusual. Gellhorn has almost nothing good to say about West Africa, but things improve when she goes to the eastern African countries. Sometimes I had to cringe with her commentary about the blacks, she's not enlightened a bit. She keeps saying how the Whites need to leave the Blacks on their own, but in the end she sets up house there too in East Africa near the coast.
It's very well written and yes, horrifying in some of the descriptions. The level of writing is above most other travelogues I've read. Makes it feel like modern writing has deteriorated.
This historical novel was an admirable imagining of what the Mirabal sisters lives were like. Three of the four were assassinated on November 25, 1960This historical novel was an admirable imagining of what the Mirabal sisters lives were like. Three of the four were assassinated on November 25, 1960 due to their deep involvement with the rebellion against the dictator Trujillo in Dominican Republic. These women are honored every year and the UN has declared November 25 as the International day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The author, Julia Alvarez grew up hearing about these sisters and wrote this book to bring the story to English speakers and to figure out a way of how they lived their lives, how they became these strong women to change a country, and how the surviving sister coped. Their code name was Mariposa which means butterfly, thus the sisters became known as the butterflies.
The book is very moving. The horror is there, but not obvious and in your face, and gratefully neither is the torture their husbands went through while in prison. Most of the novel really is about them growing up, meeting their husbands and starting families.
The novel is told in the four sisters alternating voices. My one complaint is that they didn't differ between each enough. Near the end of the book they became more distinct, but on several occasions I had to keep remembering which sister was the one speaking. The one sister who lived, Dede, was the most confusing first person section to read, since there were switches in period of time, modern time and flash backs interspersed and not always clearly defined. Other than those minor quibbles, the book is well written. Since you know what is going to happen as the day draws closer the tension mounts, you wish the women would do something different, but then if they did the book would not have been this story.
Alvarez does a good job in bringing this historical event to the English speaking part of the world. I had no idea before reading this book about the difficult Trujillo era in Dominican Republic's past, nor what November 25 means to most of Latin America. 4 1/2 stars (or four since we can't use halves)....more
An amazing story, also saw the movie in a French class, and also well done. It's one of those tales that helps you appreciate what you have in life, eAn amazing story, also saw the movie in a French class, and also well done. It's one of those tales that helps you appreciate what you have in life, especially growing up, and how important education can be for changing one's life, particularly when in extreme poverty. The images of the children, and of the time they all got drunk while the parents were working in the cane fields, will be something I will always remember....more