Synopses & Reviews
Apocalyptic, lyrical, and erotically charged, Hunger's Brides
is an epic novel of genius, obsession, and mystery surrounding the Baroque-era Mexican nun, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, who at the time of her death in 1695 was arguably the greatest writer working in any European tongue though she never lived outside her native Mexico. Born in the shadow of the mountain passes traversed by Cortes and his conquistadors, Juana was a child prodigy whose beauty and wit provoked a sensation at the vice-regal court in Mexico City. At nineteen, though still a royal favorite, she chose to enter a convent. In the twenty years after she left the palace, Juana created plays, theological arguments, and graceful, often sensuous poetry insisting upon a life of the mind for women, while jousting with the enforcers of the Inquisition, like a New World Galileo. Then, at forty, Juana made the most astonishing gesture of her dramatic life: she signed a vow of silence in her own blood, five years before succumbing to plague.
While maintaining a portion of its narrative gaze fixed on the baroque era, it is in the contemporary world that debut novelist Paul Anderson begins his epic work. In the dead of a frigid winter night, a man escapes from an apartment in which a young woman lies mortally wounded. In his hands he's clutching a box he has found on her table addressed to him. He is Donald Gregory, a once-respected college professor and serial adulterer, whose latest affair has left his academic career in ruins. The bleeding woman is Beulah Limosneros, one of his students, and for a brief time his lover. Brilliant, erratic, and driven, she had disappeared into Mexico two years earlier, following her growing obsession with Sor Juana. As a police investigation closes in around Gregory, he pieces together the contents of the box, fearful of incriminating evidence Beulah may have assembled against him. Inside it he finds translated poems of Sor Juana; a travel diary; research notes on the Spanish conquest of the Americas and the Inquisition; journal entries about him; and a strange manuscript, part biography and part fiction, composed largely in Sor Juana's own mesmerizing voice.
In Hunger's Brides, Paul Anderson plumbs a mystery that has intrigued writers as diverse as Robert Graves, Octavio Paz, Diane Ackerman, and Eduardo Galeano: Why did a writer of such gifts silence herself? In his remarkable debut, Anderson performs a dramatic unfolding of three intimate journeys: a great poet's withdrawal from the world; a man's forced march to self-knowledge; and a woman mystic's pilgrimage into modern Mexico, where the bones of the past continually intrude into a present built on the ruins of the vanquished.
"A tour de force of a debut novel....A Da Vinci Code for the literate, reminiscent of Arturo Perez-Reverte and Carlos Fuentes at their best; sure to draw attention to Sor Juana, who remains one of the most fascinating figures in world literature." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"This is an extraordinary debut, with depth of detail and narrative skill presented effortlessly throughout its staggering length. Highly recommended." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Lyrical, provocative, and painstakingly detailed....It takes a special breed of reader to brave this book....Alas, even the most devoted bibliophiles will wonder if the subject matter of this never-ending story warrants its mind-numbing length." Booklist
"One of the most remarkable books in recent memory....Stands proudly alongside such works as Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and Eduardo Galeano's Memory of Fire." Quill & Quire (Starred Review)
On a frigid winter's night, a man escapes from an apartment in which a young woman lies bleeding. In his hands he clutches a box he has found there. He is Donald Gregory, a once-respected college professor and serial adulterer, whose last affair has left his career in ruins. She is Beulah Limosneros, one of his students and for a brief time his lover. She had disappeared into Mexico two years earlier, following her obsession with Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, who was born in 1648, entered a convent at age nineteen, and became the greatest poet of her time, only to die of plague in 1695. As a police investigation closes in around Gregory, he examines the box's contents, fearful of incriminating evidence Beulah may have against himtranslated poems of Sor Juana, a travel journal, research notes on the Spanish conquest of the Americas and the Inquisition, diary entries concerning him, and a strange manuscript about Sor Juana. Based on the life of one of literature's most compelling figures, Paul Anderson's astonishing debut unveils a great poet's withdrawal from the world who at the height of her creative powers signs a vow of contrition in her own blood.
About the Author
Paul Anderson spent twelve years writing Hunger's Brides, his first novel. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where his book has received the top award for literary fiction in the 2005 Alberta Book Awards.