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The Divine Husband: A Novelby Francisco Goldman
Synopses & Reviews
From one of America's preeminent literary voices comes a big, magnificent novel of the Americas, great love, and the dawn of modernity.
With his novels The Long Night of White Chickens and The Ordinary Seaman, Francisco Goldman has reaped immense critical acclaim and established himself as an American voice of vital importance. His third novel is a marvelous tale about the soul of the Americas and the birth of the modern spirit, of great love, tragedy, and human comedy, set in the convents, ballrooms, and coffee plantations of Central America and the docks, rooming houses, and stately Fifth Avenue addresses of New York.
The Divine Husband tells the story of María de las Nieves Moran, daughter of an Irish-American father and a Central American mother, whose brief career as a nun is terminated when a rapacious general closes the convents — in part to reach her beautiful, aristocratic best friend Paquita, hidden away from him in the cloister. María de las Nieves makes her own way in the secular world, surrounded by an unforgettable cast of characters striving for love or success in late-nineteenth-century Central America and New York: José Martí, the poet and hero of nineteenth-century Cuban independence and the first man María de las Nieves loves; Mack Chinchilla, the Yankee-Indio entrepreneur intent on winning her hand; a stuffy British diplomat setting up a political impostor plot; and Mathilde, the daughter whose birth — perhaps fathered by one of these men — ruins María de las Nieves's reputation and launches her on a journey to a new future in New York.
This is a joyfully imagined novel of ideas and a broad, beautifully achieved canvas populated by sassily adorable Indian girls, wandering Jewish coffee farmers, the founder of the rubber-balloon industry, and one of Latin America's greatest and most complex men, of whom it paints an unprecedented and rich portrait. The Divine Husband is an extraordinarily inventive, poetic engagement with the meaning of literature and the writing of history. It is a rich, thrilling accomplishment that is destined to be a literary event.
"The Guatemalan-American Goldman (The Ordinary Seaman, etc.) has used the often violent modern history of Central America as the backdrop of his two previous novels. His latest plunges back to the 19th century, telling the story of a woman who might have borne an illegitimate child of the great Cuban poet, Jose Mart. First a nun, then a translator for the British ambassador, Mara de las Nieves Moran is involved with four men, one of whom is Jose Mart. Unfortunately, Mart never transcends his wooden theatricality as 'the poet' in Goldman's narrative. Much more interesting are Mara's three other suitors, especially Mara's true love, a mysterious boy whom the ambassador has plucked out of obscurity and wants to make the king of the Mosquitoes, an Indian tribe on the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. Certain sequences (a journey to the interior of the republic, the romance between Mara and the 'king' of the Mosquitos, etc.) are beautifully written. The narrative, however, loses his sense of what is central and what is peripheral. The novel suffers from too much clutter and the obsession with Mart, a bothersome McGuffin in an otherwise independently interesting story. Agent, Amanda Urban. (Sept.) Forecast: Though a respectable entry in the author's growing oeuvre, this doesn't pack the narrative punch of Goldman's first two novels, and as a result may show quieter sales." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"That Goldman's book largely succeeds in spite of this familiar material remains a testament to its author's deep imagination, stylistic verve and psychological acuity." Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
"[A] dynamically episodic saga written in a more ebullient, mischievous, and sensual mode than [his previous novels] but without belying complexity or tragedy....[Goldman] conjures the very spirit of humankind in all its perfidy and splendor." Booklist
"Informative, chatty, wry, often amusing, but not enough so that readers won't be checking their watches. Or calendars." Kirkus Reviews
"[An] extraordinary beautiful new novel." Esther Allen, Bomb
"[I]t is Goldman's ability to create a multifaceted world, part indefatigable research and part invention, that infuses the persona of the storyteller....[A] uniquely ambitious and enlightening read." Lisa Jennifer Selzman, The Houston Chronicle
"After finishing Goldman's bold but flawed attempt at a big novel with big ideas, I wish he had noticed how much livelier than all the other parts of the book were the scenes and appearances of Jose Marti." Chicago Tribune
"Nearly every page has a moment of lyricism so neatly put it makes you pause and read the passage again....[A] brave and big-hearted book..." Orlando Sentinel
"This is hagiography. The author's task was to present us with a human being, not a wooden idol....If Martí were alive today, it is doubtful The Divine Husband would change his poor opinion of novels." Miami Herald
"[A]n intricately wrought tale....I came away from this novel with enormous respect for Goldman's talent for delving very deep into the tales he seeks to tell." Baltimore Sun
"The book has elements of confusion, but it's never dull. Goldman is a maximalist, and his challenging novel of love, migration, class and corruption shows off a gratifying literary dexterity." Los Angeles Times
With his previous novels, Francisco Goldman has reaped immense acclaim and established himself as an American voice of vital importance. His third novel is a marvelous tale of great love, the soul of the Americas and the birth of the modern spirit, set in the convents, ballrooms, and coffee plantations of late-nineteenth-century Central America and the docks, rooming houses, and stately Fifth Avenue addresses of New York.
Acclaimed and award-winning author Goldman delivers his third novel, a masterpiece love story, supported by an unforgettable cast of characters striving for love or success in the heady late-19th-century atmosphere of Guatemala City and New York.
With his previous novels, Francisco Goldman has reaped immense acclaim and established himself as an American voice of vital importance. His third novel is a marvelous tale of great love, the soul of the Americas and the birth of the modern spirit, set in the convents, ballrooms, and coffee plantations of late-nineteenth-century Central America and the docks, rooming houses, and stately Fifth Avenue addresses of New York. When we meet Marí a de las Nieves Moran, she is a bookish and dreamy novice nun-until the country's new ruler closes the convents. What will be her fate in the secular world? When Marí a de las Nieves enrolls in a writing class under José Martí, her life is transformed by the brilliant poet and hero of Cuban independence, whose year in that Central American capital results in Latin America's most famous love poem. Marí a de las Nieves's story unfolds among an unforgettable cast of characters striving for love or success. And when Marí a de las Nieves departs for New York years later, young daughter in tow, she continues to evade the mystery of who, of her many suitors, is the girl's father, and what really happened between her and José Martí .
About the Author
Francisco Goldman was raised between Massachusetts and Guatemala. His short fiction and journalism have been published in Harper's, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The New York Review of Books, and The New Yorker. His first novel, The Long Night of White Chickens, won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The Ordinary Seaman was a finalist for the IMPAC Dublin International Literary Prize and was named one of the Hungry Mind One Hundred Books of the Century. Both novels were PEN/Faulkner finalists. He has translated into English short stories by Gabriel García Márquez, received a 1998 Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, and was a 20002001 Fellow of the Cullman Center. Goldman divides his time between New York and Mexico City. In 2005 he will publish a book on the Bishop Gerardi murder case in Guatemala.
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