Nancy McKibben's Reviews > Frida: A Novel of Frida Kahlo

Frida by Bárbara Mujica
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
13758444
's review

liked it
bookshelves: reviewed
Recommended to Nancy by: saw it at the library.
Recommended for: diehard Frida Kahlo fans

Frida
By Bárbara Mujica

Frida Kahlo is an important artist in her own right, as well as a tragic figure crippled first by polio, then by a horrific traffic accident, and then by her own pain, both physical and emotional. And if that is not interesting enough, she was also married to painter Diego Rivera, and partied with the famous and infamous - Trotsky was a house guest, and Paulette Goddard was Diego’s lover.

Given all that material and the skill of the author, the book should be more compelling than it is. Its greatest problem is the narrator, Cristina, who is Frida's sister. If we are to believe author Mujica,Cristina simultaneously loved, hated and was violently jealous of her famous sister. Cristina’s feelings toward Frida, and her claims of memory loss, make her an unreliable narrator, a ploy that works in some novels, but just feels annoying here, possibly because we are dealing with historical figures. We’d like to know whether we’re getting the straight skinny or Cristina’s inventions.

The unhappy result is that neither she nor Frida are likeable characters. Although both sisters have claims on our sympathy, Cristina is always reminding us of Frida’s self-centeredness. This passage is a variation on the theme that Cristina drums into us throughout the novel:

I’ve told you this before: only one thing interested Frida. No, not communism or the plight of the workers. Not art, not muralism as an instrument of education, not creativity or where to buy the best oil colors. And no, not sex, not even sex. The only thing that really fascinated Frida was Frida. People said I was stupid. They said I never really understood what was going on. But I’m smart enough to know this: Frida Kahlo had a lifelong romance with herself, and nobody, not Diego, not me - nobody could ever replace Frida in Frida’s heart.


It may have been the author’s intention to balance these spiels with glimpses of Frida’s charm, and there are passages that conjure vivid scenes of delicious food and beautiful clothing and intelligent conversation with Frida as the lighthearted hostess, the beloved friend, the tender lover. But there are not enough of those scenes. Add Frida’s foul mouth to her selfishness, and the reader can only wonder why she is so loved by the other characters.

Cristina does not fare much better, alternating between remorseful self-flagellation and repetitive tirades against Frida. The author may have given us a keen psychological portrait of these two sisters, but she mostly fails to show us the beating hearts underneath, and as readers, that is what we want.



1 like · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Frida.
Sign In »

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Barb You nailed it Nancy and expressed my own thoughts on this novel perfectly!


back to top