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The House On The Lagoon (1996)

The House on the Lagoon (1996)
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3.78 of 5 Votes: 1
ISBN
0452277078 (ISBN13: 9780452277076)
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The House On The Lagoon (1996)
The House On The Lagoon (1996)

About book: I belong to four reading groups, all of which meet in real time. Because I read so much, I am always dying for people to discuss books with, but reading group picks are an unpredictable mix. What a treat it is then to read a great book I might otherwise have missed if it weren't for those reading groups.The House on the Lagoon is historical fiction set in Puerto Rico; Rosario Ferre is a Puerto Rican writer, poet and essayist. She writes in both Spanish and English, self-translating her books. The English edition of this novel is apparently out of print, but can be found in libraries and through used book sellers.Buenaventura Mendizabal, a Spanish immigrant, arrived penniless on the shores of Puerto Rico in 1917 with nothing to recommend him but a good family name. He rose to be a wealthy man in the highest levels of Puerto Rican society and begat a dynasty, passing on the ruthless and violent ways of Spanish conquest. Through the generations his descendants intermingled and even at times intermarried with other levels of society and heritage, as is the way of colonized lands.When I was in grade school, we were taught that Puerto Rico was an island of friendly people who were proud to live in a United States territory and whose fondest dream was that their island would become a state. So typical of the "Social Studies" taught to us in the 1950s. Reading The House on the Lagoon gave me a much truer picture of Puerto Rican history in the 20th century.So that is fine on an educational level, but this novel works on many levels, one of which is a clear-eyed look at the position of women in a culture that combines Spanish aristocracy, wealth and business with the indigenous population. In that regard it is a triumph of historical writing including politics, finance, the arts and real social studies, as well as a finely wrought piece of literature.Isabel Monfort is writing her first novel. It is to be a history of the Mendizabal family, known to her because she is married to Quentin, the grandson of Buenaventura and current head of the family business. In alternating chapters we read Isabel's novel-in-progress and Quentin's reactions to her writing. Thus we are given both the male and female perspective as the history evolves and leads to a stunning conclusion.Many thanks to the wonderful Mary Helen Ponce, a fine writer herself and member of one of my reading groups, for recommending the book. We eagerly await Mary Helen's next novel!

Espectacular, buenísima, excelente, épica. Bien acertado lo que he visto en varias críticas sobre la comparación de la misma con Cien años de Soledad, mi versión hasta tiene un árbol genealógico impreso en las primeras páginas que es super útil para no perderse en la maraña familiar de la historia. La historia es un tanto trágica y te deja muchas veces boquiabierto con las cosas que le ocurren a ésta familia, pero además es una rica narración de casi un siglo de historia puertorriqueña bien documentada y sabiamente entre-mezclada en la trama de los personajes. Ésta es la primera obra que leo de Rosario Ferré y quedé más que satisfecho y orgulloso de tener una tan buen escritora en mi país. Altamente recomendada.
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Reviews
Ryl
The House on the Lagoon follows the fortunes of the Mendizabal family from Buenaventura Mendizabal’s arrival in Puerto Rico on July 4, 1917 to the mid 1990s, while also chronicling the history of the island as a U.S. territory. An orphan from a small town in Spain, Buenaventura hopes to find work in Puerto Rico as an accountant. By a lucky chance, he is introduced to Rebecca Arrigoitia, the only daughter of a wealthy family. They marry soon after their first meeting and Buenaventura begins to im
Gabriel Oak
I feel a little sheepish on this one because I didn't realize the book was originally written in English. I've read other things by Ferré in Spanish and just assumed this was the original. On the positive side, this is a really good novel and if you don't read Spanish, you can pick up the original in English. I loved the parallels between the Mendizábal family saga and the history of Puerto Rico, and the metanarrative device of Quintín and Isabel arguing over the appropriate way to tell the family story. The novel also builds tension steadily to the surprising, bold, provocative conclusion.
Rouen
Isabel Monfort, married to Quintin Mendizabal, intended to write the story of the Mendizabals and the Monforts, to account the history behind each generation. But somewhere along the way, it turned into something else, a novel about freedom from the clutching hands of power whether it be political and familial.In this saga of a wealthy Puerto Rican family, secrets go abound with riches and status. Beginning with Buenaventura Mendizabal’s arrival to the island in the early twentieth century as a descendant of old Spanish Conquistadors, it encompassed several decades up until the mid-nineties. One day, Quintin discovers the manuscripts and was in complete disagreement with the accuracy of the facts he read, claiming it a tale of fiction bending to the writer’s whims. With each passing chapter however, Isabel’s writing becomes more poignant, displaying the innermost thoughts and desires of each character. As the drama escalates in the story, so does the conflict in the Mendizabal household and the tension within the nation.The House on the Lagoon works like a series of stories about the prominent men and matriarchs of the Mendizabals and Monforts as well as the few figures of Peru society. Each chapter is quite a stand alone, each one as engaging as the next. Interspersed between them were small narratives of Quintin and Isabel at the time the novel is being written. The book also gives the readers a bigger picture of the political turmoil and prejudices within the country in the old days and its stumbling effects being a commonwealth colony of United States. Not only the nation but the characters themselves struggle for an identity.Rosario Ferre, as the voice of Isabel, writes in a nostalgic way, warm and fierce at the same time, matching the heat of the South American island which could be sleepy or unrepentant. Her characters wield powers of their own; the men with their influence and wealth and ancestry blood running through their veins, the women, like Petra and Ermelinda Quinones, with the force of their will and wit.The little touch of magic only enhanced an exotic flavor to the cultural expressions portrayed in the story. I love its added drama to fate of the Russian ballet teacher Andre and Isabel’s friend when the curtains on the ballet recital went up.Ferre gives us a story steeped of old colonial aspects; the toast of the town, disparity, political upheavals, and the ultimate climb to power.
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