Wednesday, July 27, 2011

REVIEW: Josefina's Sin by Claudia H. Long

Josefina, the wife of a wealthy Spanish landowner, is content with her husband but longs for more out of life than keeping accounts for the household.  After making the acquaintance of the beautiful young widow Angelica, she secures Josefina an invitation to the court of  the Marquesa de Condera.  There the sheltered Josefina encounters forbidden love, the unwanted attentions of the incorrigible Marques, plenty of intrigue, and enlightenment in the form of the nun Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz who teaches her about love, writing and how to think about the world.  Soon Josefina faces the treachery of one she thought was a friend and draws the attention of the fearful Inquisition who seek to silence the brilliant Sor Juana.  Amidst the drama of this 17th century court in Colonial Mexico, Josefina makes the transition from country wife to learned woman.

This book intrigued me from the prologue where the invalid Josefina laments of her fate-being separated from her child and shut away in an abbey to be nursed by her husband's mistress.  It made me immediately want to keep reading to see how she got to this state and the author begins to unwind an engaging story told in the eloquent voice of Josefina.  It is clear Josefina is a fish out of water when she arrives at the court of the Marquessa.  The customs and culture of the court are entirely alien to her and it seems she makes a misstep at every turn.  In addition to that she must deal with the sniping and backbiting of the seasoned ladies of the court and the attentions of the persistent Marques.  Enter Sor Juana whose poetry which mainly centers around love is not something you would expect from a nun.  Seeing her potential, she takes Josefina under her wing and Josefina soon becomes engrossed in Juana's teachings.  These aspects of the book were all very well written and kept my attention very easily.

Now, the title is Josefina's Sin so there has got to be sin somewhere right?  There is and unfortunately there was too much of it for me.  While at court Josefina is reunited with someone from her adolescence and must battle her desire for this individual.  There are the sins committed by the corrupt court, the sin of heresy which brings on the wrath of the Inquisition and the sin of adultery.  When the book revolved around Josefina becoming learned and navigating the treacherous court the book was great but then some event in would trigger some sort of sexual encounter and these soon became numerous.  This really took away from the book for me because it seemed like between Josefina's forbidden desire, the Marques constantly propositioning her, and her husband's unfaithfulness there was sex at every turn.  Nothing wrong with a little bit here and there but I felt constantly barraged by it and when one encounter turned extremely brutal it almost made me stop reading.
If it weren't for so much sex, I would have enjoyed this book a lot more.  It was interesting watching Josefina grow from someone so sheltered to a smart, vibrant woman who could hold her own against anyone at court even if she was more than a little naive where her husband was concerned.  Sor Juana was quite an intriguing character also and I really enjoyed the author's note which explained a bit more about her. She really is a talented writer, its just the story went a bit too far for me. 

Josefina's Sin is being released on August 9th.

I received this book from Simon and Schuster via Galley Grab.  These are my honest thoughts on the book.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't heart of this book before but the summary sounds fascinating. I haven't heard of any books set in Colonial Mexico - what an interesting location. Its unfortunate that there is an overwhelming amount of sexual encounters, but it still sounds interesting. Thanks for this review.