Award: Awesome Indies: APPROVED
Publisher: S & H Publishing
Author: Dixiane Hallaj
Born in1894, youngest daughter of a wealthy Peruvian landowner, Lola was seduced at an early age, disowned and forced to leave her father’s plantation. Twice widowed with three children by age 21, Lola braved a British blockade and German U-boats off the coast of South America in her quest for security and happiness. Lola lived a life of drama and hardship from the Andes to San Francisco, but she never gave up and she never stopped loving. Fear of impending death often impels people to divulge secrets they have guarded for many years. Thus it was that Lola, sick and frightened, confided the story of her youth to her daughter, my mother, who at age 95, passed the story on to me as I sat by her hospital bed for two days. The story had many gaps, all of which I filled with fiction.
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Reviewed by Richard Bunning
November 6, 2014
Dixiane Hallaj is a particular good writer of social/historically placed, politically pointed, drama, both in her creative fiction and as in this case in the writing of Biography augmented with fictional reality. In fact, most biographies contain some invented content, and/or augmented interpretation. There are going to be gaps to fill in any knowledge that reports anything deeper than the bare historic/factual bones.
Hallaj writes, very-broadly speaking, women’s literature, in that central female figures and through them family, are her bread and butter. That shouldn’t deter any but the most misogynistic of male readers. There is plenty of the gritty content and adventure to balance the childcare and dressmaking. This is a lot on female, and male, sensitivities, but certainly very little sentimental. Lola had as psychologically tough a life as most male heroes, and survived an extraordinarily mixed bunch of husbands and other male figures. I may have lost count, but she had certainly buried at least two husbands and saw off another by the time she was thirty. Well, to be accurate, the exes were never conventionally buried.
Hallaj has preserved for history a very informative piece of family/social history. She literally saved important social history from a death bed. This is the history of a very ordinary daughter of gentry, turned extraordinary by the turmoil that swirled through and around her life. Lola saw plenty of the poverties and hardships as well as at least spells of grandeur living. We learn a very great deal about the life experiences of people in Latin America and further afield, between the end of the 19th century and the start of the Great Depression. We leave Lola’s life when she was still hardly middle-aged, by which time she had as much life experience as a half dozen others might achieve in half a dozen centuries. Hallaj has blended biography and real life fiction to create a wonderful memory of her grandmother from her mother’s own words.
The writing is of a very high quality, the script is captivating, and we learn as much about Lola’s times as we would from the very best of historical documentary. What is more, Hallaj seems to be able to paint incredibly detailed pictures without ever seeming to use more than the fewest of words to do so.