Synopsis (from Amazon, edited by me)
An extraordinary retelling of the passionate and tragic love between the conquistador Cortez and the Indian woman Malinalli, his interpreter during his conquest of the Aztecs. Malinalli’s Indian tribe has been conquered by the warrior Aztecs. When her father is killed in battle, she is raised by her wisewoman grandmother who imparts to her the knowledge that their founding forefather god, Quetzalcoatl, had abandoned them after being made drunk by a trickster god and committing incest with his sister. But he was determined to return with the rising sun and save her tribe from their present captivity. Wheh Malinalli meets Cortez she, like many, suspects that he is the returning Quetzalcoatl, and assumes her task is to welcome him and help him destroy the Aztec empire and free her people.
I must admit I found this book a bit hard going. The writing was undeniably beautiful but difficult. There was a mystical and almost poetic quality to it. Plot wise there isn’t really much to it, there is a plot but most of the book is taken up with writing (I know that kind of sounds odd, but it sort of builds an atmosphere as much as telling a story I suppose). What there was of plot wasn’t really very detailed, and that was kind of disappointing. Somehow tough I did feel I knew Malinalli, almost to the extent that I felt I was her. I hated what the Spanish were doing but somehow I couldn’t hate them because she didn’t, and I think that’s something powerful. I don’t think this is a particularly easily accessible book but for the beautiful writing it’s worth a read, although you may find it best when you have few distractions (I tend to read on the bus and in my lunch break and I found I had to re-read a fair bit). If you’re after something more accessible try Like Water for Chocolate instead, it’s almost as beautifully written but is easier.