When I initially started this novel, I had a tough time following, due to the numerous characters that appear in it. I chose it for an Independent Study because it was recognized as one of the best novels during the Latin American Boom. However, as it was written by a woman (the wife of famous writer Octavio Paz), it couldn’t officially be recognized as one of the best novels when it came out. The book is well-known not just for the captivating story line, but the use of magical realism. There are two great examples, one in each part of the novel, but I won’t ruin the storyline! Another indication of magical realism is that Garro chooses a town that doesn’t exist in Mexico, “Ixtepec” (similar to what Gabriel Garcia Márquez did with his novels set in “Macondo”. But what Garro does that sets her apart is that the town is the narrator. This makes for a very interesting perspective, as the town bears witness to its inhabitants and their actions: the good, the bad, and the ugly. We learn a great deal about gender roles during this novel and the Cristero War, where men were known to be manly, oppressive, and violent and the women were submissive, essentially powerless. We learn about the soldiers and their mistresses that they kidnapped, about the people they brutally killed and about two central women: Julia Andrade and Isabel Moncada – two women that ends up with the General. By choice? You’ll have to read it to find out!
Like many books, we also see the hatred and discrimination against the indigenous people, referred to as “los indios” (The Indians) and how horrifically they were treated. Many great authors such as Isabel Allende make a reference to them so that people are not only aware of the prejudices against them, but to respect them, as they have massively contributed to society. For example, in Mexico, one of the many indigenous languages, Nahuatl, has heavily impacted the Spanish language. This book is important not just because we learn about a bit of Mexican history, but also gender roles, class disparities and race. It can be a tough read, which is why I’d only recommend it to post AP Spanish Language students and higher, but it’s 100% worth it! I highly recommend it. Although it’s originally written in Spanish, there’s a translation in English (Recollections of Things to Come).