Thursday, March 02, 2006

A New Review of "Vedette"

The following review of “Vedette or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows” is running in “The Volunteer” which is published by the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives. the scribe is honored they took the time to consider the novel and tell their friends a little about it:

Vedette or Conversations with the Flamenco Shadows is set in Andalucía, around Sevilla, during the days of the Second Republic and the Spanish Civil War. This self-published novel starts out strongly. “The first man I ever haunted was my father which, I suppose makes perfect sense.” Gloriella, a young girl born in a small town, has unfortunately attracted the lustful attentions of her father, who is haunted by her beauty. He calls her Vedette, a French word for a star or accomplished performer, though when father says it to daughter, it has other implications. Both mother and a hypocritical priest try to wrest the girl away from the father’s possession. After a gypsy woman reads Vedette’s future, Vedette's mother tries to save her by giving her into the care of people who might watch over her: revolutionaries.

Thus begins Vedette’s travels in a Bildungsroman with a touch of the picaresque. Vedette learns of the wider world and the limits of men while with revolutionaries. She lives near the Parque de María Luisa and learns to sing in Sevilla. Just after the fascist uprising in 1936, she helps start a utopian town, one that attempts to bring the benefits of free love and animal liberation (some of these utopian scenes are insufferable – imagine, for instance, rural Andalusian men giving up the hunting of rabbits). At the end of the war she copes with the terrible changes brought about by the new government.

According to the novel’s bibliography, Siciliano lived four years in Andalucía, and he clearly loves the region, the people, the culture. The novel is peppered with Spanish proverbs and flavored with descriptions that can only be written by a writer who has lived in the south of Spain. Especially in the first section, there is a pleasant charm in the writing.

Siciliano’s love of Andalucía and of his main character is both a blessing and a curse. As a writer, he’s eager to introduce us to culture and history. Apprentice writers are often advised to write of characters who are at the heart of things; there are great challenges to writing of a protagonist who is more witness than participant. Vedette often hears of major events or she is on the sidelines as a witness. Even when Vedette stands at the center of an event, the first-person narrator will explain more than she dramatizes. I found myself yearning for more shape to the story, for the writer to have a greater sense of how story is often built around how things go wrong, not about how things just happen.

If you go to, you can read the opening of Vedette. If the writing charms you, if you enjoy a novel with a leisurely paces, if you yearn for a trip to southern Spain but can’t afford the ticket to southern Spain but can’t afford the ticket (or don’t want to deal with all the tourists) then Vedette, which you can order at your local bookstore or on the Internet, might be the remedy.

Charles Oberndorf is a novelist and English teacher who lives in Cleveland, Ohio.

the scribe will take advantage of his owning and controlling this particular medium to say a few of the following things:

That it would be unthinkable for Andalusian countrymen to give up rabbit hunting is to forget there is a revolution going on in the novel. As the Federation representatives point out in their manifesto (p. 263) against the commemorative bullfight: “The animals of this district benefit from a tolerance by humans they receive nowhere else in the world. And that is what we mean by revolutionary.”

Vedette’s passivity as narrator is intentional; the point being that she is a proscribed woman of marginal status. Even at the height of her powers, Vedette’s influence is more spiritual and poetic, although she clearly can give as good as she gets.

Here’s another review of “Vedette” that we have run before from the magical realism review,

the scribe may or may not do the great and popular things associated with a life of successful artistry, but either way he will always insist that you stop, mark his rhythm, and listen to La Vedette, Gloriella.

No comments: