An epic novel of love, discovery, and adventure by the author of the best-selling memoir When I Was Puerto Rican.
As a young girl growing up in Spain, Ana Larragoity Cubillas is powerfully drawn to Puerto Rico by the diaries of an ancestor who traveled there with Ponce de León. And in handsome twin brothers Ramón and Inocente - both in love with Ana - she finds a way to get there. She marries Ramón, and in 1844, just 18, she travels across the ocean to a remote sugar plantation the brothers have inherited on the island.
Ana faces unrelenting heat, disease and isolation, and the dangers of the untamed countryside even as she relishes the challenge of running Hacienda los Gemelos. But when the Civil War breaks out in the United States, Ana finds her livelihood, and perhaps even her life, threatened by the very people on whose backs her wealth has been built: the hacienda’s slaves, whose richly drawn stories unfold alongside her own. And when at last Ana falls for a man who may be her destiny - a once-forbidden love - she will sacrifice nearly everything to keep hold of the land that has become her true home.
This is a sensual, riveting tale, set in a place where human passions and cruelties collide: thrilling history that has never before been brought so vividly and unforgettably to life.
©2011 Esmeralda Santiago (P)2011 Random House Audio
“Santiago brings passion, color, and historical detail to this Puerto Rican Gone with the Wind, featuring a hard-as-nails heroine more devoted to her plantation than to any of the men in her life... Ana grows up the willful daughter of aristocratic parents during the waning years of Spain’s colonial era. [She is] a not-so-innocent convent girl who marries her best friend’s fiancé’s twin brother, then heads to Puerto Rico without her friend, but with both twins in tow. The young men intend to make their fortunes, but it is Ana who has the savvy and determination to persevere through hurricanes, slave revolts, cholera and any other challenge the island has to offer... Santiago makes Caribbean history come alive through characters as human as they are iconic. The richness of her imagination and the lushness of her language will serve saga enthusiasts well, and she provides readers a massive panorama of plantation life - plus all you could ever want to know and more about growing sugar cane.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Extraordinary... a historical novel set in 19th Puerto Rico, featuring a high-handed, strong-willed woman determined to escape her boring upper-class future in Spain. When twin brothers inherit a sugar plantation in Puerto Rico, Ana marries them (who can tell them apart?), and they embark on what for the brothers is a lark, but for Ana is serious business. From the start, she takes to the land and the work of processing cane in the Caribbean, keeping the slaves inherited with the property and adding to their number over the years. She becomes the very image of a conquering hero: implacable, outspoken, demanding. Her husbands languish and fade while Ana runs Hacienda los Gemelos without their help. The issues of social caste, slavery, and sex roles make this a fascinating read. It’s an outstanding story, full of pathos, tropical sensuality, and violence - but it also poses uncomfortable moral questions readers are forced to consider... Storytelling genius... Conquistadora is a book-group must.”(Jen Baker, Booklist)
"If, as the proverb goes, history is written by the hunters, then Esmeralda Santiago has imagined history as written from the point of view of the lions. A remarkable story for its detail, imagination, meticulous research, and wisdom, this is history written by a lion at the height of her powers." (Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street)
I really wanted to love this book! But I deleted it from my IPod after listening to less than 1/4 of the book. I could not stand listening to this author read her own book!!!! She needs to leave narration to a professional!!!
Say something about yourself!
I was looking forward to reading this book--unfortunately, it was a huge disappointment. Was it the content? The sing-song Mr. Rogers' style of reading? The boring content?
After multiple reflections, I gave up--why fight this? The book is boring, the narrator sophomoric in her delivery--MY TIME IS PRECIOSA! Way too precious for this! It was time to press delete.
I managed to hang in there through the entire story, but more through determination than enjoyment. It dragged on with, what I felt was, too much minutia. Show me, don't tell me...at times it felt like a text book with dialog. And speaking of the dialog, it was unreallistic and contrived...used solely for the purpose of "instructing" the listener some more (just in case the author hadn't explained herself enough in her labored narrative.) I didn't care about any of the characters. I was grateful when it ended. No way can this be compared to GWTW.
I was really looking forward to this book, but it has not lived up to my wishes or expectations. The story doesn't have much feeling to it. Why do authors want to read their own work??? The narration is painful.
I sometimes read historical novels to pick up little of the feel of a place. This one doesn't ring true. Conquistadora is written like a soap opera. The narrator, who is the author, reads like my 3rd grade teacher. I initially thought I'd picked up juvenile fiction by mistake. But descriptions of unconventional sexual conduct put that impression to rest. It's full of anachronisms ("infrastructure" in 1840?) that ruin the tone. And...it's a cliff hanger at the end. Nope, not my cuppa tea, but I did finish it.
First of all, I have to defend the author's narration. Santiago is Puerto Rican and the cadence and style of how she reads her work is typical of the storytelling style of Puerto Rico. I felt I was being read a story by one of my older relatives who is no longer alive. This was her story, she wanted to narrate it herself.
I enjoyed the book overall for the story, though I felt there were many times when I was being told what was happening as opposed to being shown. Santiago was trying to cover a long period of time and I felt that some of the details she chose to focus on were handled heavily while other aspects of the story were glossed over. Her descriptions of the land were beautiful. I felt some of the characters felt flat and unreal. But, I was interested in her version of history so I kept listening. I was a little disappointed with the ending but I probably would have been more annoyed if it had all wrapped up neatly.
I really enjoyed this book, it's a great narrative of Spanish/Puerto Rican history told from the unlikely perspective of a woman pioneer.
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