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The Duchess's Diary

By (author) Robin Chapman
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Faber & Faber, London, United Kingdom
Published: 21st Jan 1985
Dimensions: w 130mm h 190mm
ISBN-10: 0571134424
ISBN-13: 9780571134427
Barcode No: 9780571134427

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Kirkus US
"Look, look, look at what this modest, discreet author who so amuses the whole world, look at what of all things he did choose to depict, did particularise, did delineate, did mention, speak of, write about quite unnecessarily so that you should all know without doubt that his supposedly anonymous Duchess was really me, me, me!" So wails the Duchess Maria Isabel of Caparroso in this slender (128 pp.) diary - which she writes in 1616, having been driven mad, more or less, by the portrait of "the Duchess" in Book II of Cervantes' Don Quixote (published in 1615, ten years after Book I). Sent off to a convent/asylum by her unloving, philandering Duke, Maria Isabel recalls the summer of 1608, when Cervantes was her house-guest - "a medium plump man with a long soft nose" who was occasionally "too wittily holier than thou" but who seemed to find the Duchess an enchanting soulmate. She remembers, moment by moment, her reactions to the unflattering Duchess-portrait in the new novel: "How could you be so kind to me in person, so vile in ink?" She relates her mistreatment by husband, doctors, and - especially - sadistic priests. And, in the last pages here, the Duchess tells of her escape from the convent with maid Juana, a brush with rapists, and a dangerous journey to Madrid - where she finds Cervantes on his deathbed. . . and is released from her anger at last. ("His peace was mine and it wasn't a kind peace or a cruel peace it was simply peace. . . The world is wise, Maribel, learn to forgive it everything and you will find you have forgiven yourself, that's what he often said.") British writer Chapman allows the Duchess to indulge in page-long sentences, runon Joycean rambles, and other artsy devices - while her soul-journey to final redemption ("I was me") jangles here and there with anachronistic feminist buzz-phrases. Cervantes aficionados, however, may find this a half-diverting, mildly amusing impersonation - in the literary-footnote genre. (Kirkus Reviews)