Friday, March 20, 2015

Things I Learned While Reading The Woman of La Mancha

I've had the pleasure of assisting author Karen Mann with the blog tour for her historical romance novel The Woman of La Mancha, and today, it's my turn to host! Please join me in welcoming her. (You can pop on over to WOW! Women on Writing for a fun interview with Karen.)

About the Book:
The Woman of La Mancha, a companion book to Don Quixote, tells the woman’s story of Don Quixote by recounting the story of the girl he called Dulcinea, the woman he loved from afar.

It’s 1583. An eleven-year-old girl wakes in the back of a cart. She has lost her memory and is taken in by a kindly farm family in La Mancha. She adopts the name Aldonza. She doesn’t speak for quite some time. Once she speaks, there is a family member who is jealous of her and causes a good deal of trouble, even causing her to be forced to leave La Mancha in tragic circumstances. Having to create a new life in a new location and still unaware of her birth family, she adopts the name Dulcinea and moves in the circles of nobility. While seeking her identity, she becomes the consort of wealthy men, finds reason to disguise herself as a man, and learns herbal healing to help others.

The novel also features a parallel story of a young man, Don Christopher, a knight of King Philip and the betrothed of the girl, who sets off on with a young squire, Sancho, to find the girl. Christopher’s adventures takes them across Spain and forces him to grow up. Does he continue the quest to find his betrothed or marry another and break the contract with the king?

Both young people have many experiences and grow up before the readers’ eyes. Floating in and out of each other’s paths as they travel around Spain, will they eventually find each other and be together?

Paperback: 354 pages
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Fleur-de-Lis Press (May 5, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0965252043
ISBN-13: 978-0965252041

I will post a full review at The New Book Review blog on March 27, so be sure to check it out!

But for today's stop on the tour, I wanted to highlight a few things I've learned while reading the novel. 

1. Nobility came with a price. Marriages were arranged, and the head of your family most likely dictated your likes and dislikes. The protagonist, Christopher, spends much of the book searching for the young girl he promised to marry from the day she was born, in order to fulfill a contract. While he loves the girl, he also desires other women, and struggles to remain true to his word regardless the numerous temptations from others.

2. The working class worked hard. I was amazed at how families, such as the one Aldonza ends up living with, worked from sun up to sun down, with little to no hesitance. The girls and women worked just as hard as the men. They fished, they hunted, they sewed, they harvested the crops, they cooked, they cleaned . . . the list was endless. It was interesting to see how resourceful those living in the 1500s had to be in order to survive.

3. The world was a harsh place for women. The treatment of women during this time period was deplorable. Even women born into wealthy families are lectured about chastity, told who to marry, what to wear, and how to act. Other women in the book are taken advantage of with acts of cruelty and violence. At one point, Aldonza even has to disguise herself as a young man for a trip to Madrid and the dangers she faces traveling alone are very frightening.

4. You don't have to be familiar with Don Quixote to enjoy this book. It's been years since I studied Don Quixote, and I worried at first that I might be confused reading The Woman of La Mancha. I needn't have worried--I was hooked from the opening pages (who is this poor girl in the cart and why can't she remember who she is or even speak?) and quickly immersed myself in the story. It is mysterious, humorous, and heartbreaking all at the same time, and will keep you on the edge of your seat.


About the Author: 
Karen Mann is the Administrative Director of the brief-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program at Spalding University in Louisville (spalding.edu/mfa) of which she is also the co-founder. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in various anthologies. Her second book, The Saved Man: The First Century, is available as an ebook on Amazon. After having lived in Indiana most of her life, she now lives in California.

Visit Karen online at:

http://www.karenmannwrites.com

http://www.facebook.com/karenmannwrites

1 comment:

Karen Mann said...

Renee: Thank you for your comments about my book. It's really gratifying to see that someone appreciates my words and research!