Posted by lasesana on April 16, in Reviews Leave a comment. The third child of Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, Juana was not brought up to inherit the throne. Treated as mentally ill from early in her marriage, Juana was never allowed to rule Spain directly. Modern historians question whether Juana was truly mentally ill, or whether her natural reaction to forced confinement and separation from her children for decades was used as an excuse for others to assume power in her place. Her rich Latin American grandparents have a minor role in her life, as she is raised amid the strict and quiet life of the convent. Interpreting her apparent madness as a normal reaction to her unjust circumstances, Belli reveals a different queen Juana from the one depicted in history books.
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This author's previous book, ' The Country Under My Skin' , a sort of memoir, drew high praise from the critics and kind words from some eminent writers including Salmon Rushdie. The enthusism for the 'Scroll of Seduction', at least among Library Thing readers, was intially low but now I note that the average rating is close to a 4. There is no doubt that Ms. Belli is a talented and accomplished author and this is a well written book. She writes beautiful prose and hopefully more of her novels will be translated into English.
This book has some definite flaws but as an historical novel I am surprised that it isn't more popular. It is an easy read and the story is interesting. There is too much soppy romance in it for my taste but that is hardly unusual for historical novels. This is a story about mad Queen Juana of Castile who supposedly became insane from jealousy of her husband 'Philippe the Handsome' and was held prisoner, first by her husband, then by her father and then by her son for 47 years.
For a reader of history, the reason is obvious but I should first explain who she was. Jauna was a daughter of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand of Spain who reigned in the 15th century and partly in the 16th century.
Her parents ruled Castile and Aragon, each in their own right. The marriage united two separate regions of Spain. Jauna was not the oldest child and she was a girl but through force of circumstance including deaths of siblings and nephews, she became her mother's sole heir and upon her mother's death she was Queen of Castile in her own right.
That was unacceptable firstly to her father Ferdinand who wanted to rule both kingdoms after her mother's death. It was also unacceptable to her husband who wanted to rule in his own right rather than be consort and thereafter unacceptable to her sons.
Her father needed her alive but he needed her incapacitated so he could rule on her behalf. He had no right other than through her.
So it was done. Ferdinand, don't forget, was supposedly Machiaveli's model for the prince. He was cunning and unscupulous and his power of manipulation of emotions and beliefs oustanding. Her husband needed the same thing though he did not outlive Ferdinand.
The difficulty was that so long as Jauna was alive she and not her father, husband or son was sole Ruler of Castile. Charles could have had her killed as he was her heir and oldest son but Ferdinand had set her up well as a prisoner and his propaganda had established her madness. It could hardly be refuted in any event because she was held in isolation and no one other than her captors were allowed to see her.
Further , Charles was never popular in Spain and the Castilians were fiercely loyal to their former Queen Isabella and her daughter Juana so Juana's premature death could even have led to civil war. Charles disliked Spain, preferring his Flemish upbringing and never learned the language. Ms Belli sorts through the various myths and stories surrounding Jauna, looks at the actual history, consults some modern day psychiatrists, and finds that Jauna was almost certainly an angry woman, not a mad woman.
It is a very interesting story and it is a shame that the author could not have done a little better at telling it. The device she uses is a combination of two stories, one in the present well the 60's and Jauna's story. The modern tale is somewhat disturbing, a 17 year old student at a convent in Madrid in a relationship with a 40 year old man obsessed with researching Jauna's story. It helps his memory if Lucia, the student, dresses in a period dress as Juana, and then acts out the young Jauna's supposed passion for her young husband Philippe.
It really doesn't work that well, even if you can stomach his cruel exploitation of a lonely girl, and the ending is positively gothic. Nevertheless this is a good escapist read and I would not discourage anyone from reading it. I haven't finished this book yet so I reserve any final judgment, but so far, it is not looking good. I loved Belli's memoir and had high hopes for a novel from her.
However, the story is not grabbing me. The characters and the situation seem unrealistic. The plot moves slowly. I would not recommend this book. Here at Walmart. Your email address will never be sold or distributed to a third party for any reason. Due to high volume, we can't respond to individual comments.
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El Pergamino de la Seduccion: Una Novela
This author's previous book, ' The Country Under My Skin' , a sort of memoir, drew high praise from the critics and kind words from some eminent writers including Salmon Rushdie. The enthusism for the 'Scroll of Seduction', at least among Library Thing readers, was intially low but now I note that the average rating is close to a 4. There is no doubt that Ms. Belli is a talented and accomplished author and this is a well written book.
El pergamino de la seducción (The Scroll of Seduction), Gioconda Belli
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El Pergamino de la Seducción: Una Novela - Gioconda Belli
En Cuatro siglos ms tarde. Enloqueci de amor. Belli's giving and clarion book is also an antidote to fear and apathy, and a reminder that freedom is always a work in progress. Belli's rich prose provides fascinating insight into Juana's life When Belli speaks from the depths of her woman's insight.