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Malinche: A Novel Paperback – April 17, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Through the eyes of the historical native woman of the novel's title, Esquivel (Like Water for Chocolate) reveals the defeat and destruction of Montezuma's 16th-century Mexicas empire at the hands of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. Malinche, also called Malinalli, was sold into slavery as a child and later became "The Tongue," Cortés's interpreter and lover—remembered by history as a traitor for her contribution to the brutal Spanish triumph. In her lyrical but flawed fifth novel, Esquivel details richly imagined complications for a woman trapped between the ancient Mexicas civilization and the Spaniards. Esquivel revels in descriptions of the role of ancient gods in native life and Malinalli's theological musings on the similarities between her belief system and Christianity. But what the book offers in anthropological specificity, it lacks in narrative immediacy, even while Esquivel also imagines Cortés's point of view. The author also packs the arc of Malinalli's life into a relatively short novel: she bears Cortés an illegitimate son, marries another Spaniard and has a daughter before her sad demise. The resulting disjointed storytelling gives short shrift to this complex heroine, a woman whose role in Mexican history is controversial to this day.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The best-selling author of Like Water for Chocolate (1992) here turns to Mexico's legendary historical figure of Malinche, Hernan Cortes' Indian interpreter and mistress, for another of her cultural explorations of Mexico's past. In Esquivel's reinterpretation of the story, the woman long regarded as a traitor is cast in a much more sympathetic light and is called Malinalli. Raised by her protective grandmother and given a deep appreciation for her people's customs, language, and religion, Malinalli eagerly awaits the arrival of Cortes, believing that he is the reincarnation of her tribe's benevolent and beloved god Quetzalcoatl and that he will put an end to the barbaric practice of human sacrifice practiced by their ruler, Montezuma. A gifted linguist, Malinalli soon picks up Spanish and becomes an invaluable interpreter, translating between Spanish and Nahuatl; she remains convinced that Cortes' interest and hers are one and the same: the liberation of her people. The two become lovers, but Malinalli grows disenchanted upon realizing that the wily Cortes is obsessed with gold and just as bloodthirsty as Montezuma. This novel is not as accessible as Esquivel's earlier work, and the quality of the prose is uneven, sometimes lyrical and sometimes stilted. Still, Esquivel's many fervent fans will be interested in her latest. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 191 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; Tra edition (April 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743290356
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743290357
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #564,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Laura Esquivel is the award-winning author of Like Water for Chocolate, which has sold over four and a half million copies around the world in 35 languages, The Law of Love, and most recently, Between Two Fires. She lives in Mexico City.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Ratmammy VINE VOICE on August 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
MALINCHE by Laura Esquivel

August 26, 2006

Rating: 4 Stars

For those who enjoy historical fiction, MALINCHE is a captivating novel that takes the myth of Malinche (Malinalli) and recreates her story - the woman who aided Hernan Cortes in the demise of the Aztec Empire during the 1500's. For those who have read and loved LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, MALINCHE is a different type of novel, a story that is based on history. Malinalli is considered a traitor in the history books, but Esquivel writes her main character in a way that will garner sympathy from the reader, a different viewpoint of the woman who was Cortes' right hand man, as she was the translator between the Spaniards and the Aztecs. She is portrayed as an innocent victim, someone who made poor choices and lived to regret them.

Starting with Malinalli's early years, MALINCHE traces her story from birth, to childhood, to her life as a slave. The novel is filled with myths and fables, and for those who love those little extras, the inside cover to the hardcover book displays a pictograph story of the entire novel, similar to those that were drawn back in the 1500's.

MALINCHE transforms Malinalli into a heroine of sorts, while in truth the word malinchista today means traitor. But in this novel, she is portrayed as a woman who was torn between two worlds, a woman who tried to save herself but at the save time, was hoping to destroy the Aztecs and their barbaric human sacrifices. I didn't feel that this was the perfect book, but it was definitely time not wasted, as I learned a little bit of history that I had not known about before, and was entertained with the fascinating (fictionalized) story of Malinalli, the woman who helped destroy the Aztecs.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Dhermitdelsur on June 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Actually, there are any number of curses one could associate with dona Marina, la Malinche. In the present instance---Laura Esquivel's novel about Cortes' remarkable translator---it is "The Sentimental Pudding Curse," by which fictionalized accounts of La Malinche have been reduced to mediocrity or worse for over 100 years. I should be grateful that we have this version of the Curse, not the uglier "Wicked Harlot Traitor Curse" in which Malinche is burdened with just about every nasty character trait imaginable. Still, this is historical fiction at its most unseamly: neither good history, nor good fiction. Esquivel trivializes or pointlessly distorts known facts, and in mashing poor Malinche into a kind of New-Age superwoman posterchild for Toltec dreamers and other such crystal-gazers, she commits as violent an injury on her subject as those who would paint her as "chingada" (see Octavio Paz) or traitress. It's a silly book, and even if you are, as I am, a lover of all things 16th Century, you will likely conclude there just isn't any meat here. It is at least consistent: read a few pages online. If you like that sort of writing, by all means go buy the book, and I apologize for any implied criticism of your taste. If you, on the other hand, cringe with embarrassment, trust me that ahead lies only another 180 mercifully short pages of the same fluff-headed nonsense.

Fortunately, the Curse does not extend to non-fiction, for there is a world of good material on Malinche, the Conquest era, and pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Start with the astonishing 16th Century documents themselves---they are the source for our knowledge of Malinche, and there's great reading here.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jamieson Villeneuve on May 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I have read everything that Laura Esquivel has written. Her novels are always filled with images and with passion, imagination and with love. While Malinche is not the best book she has written (that spot is held by Like Water for Chocolate and The Law of Love) it is still one amazing read.

Malinche, given away at an early age, finds herself the interpretor of Cortez, who does not speak the native Aztec tongue. Malinche sees Cortez as the re-embodiment of their Aztec lord and stands by his side, even when it looks as if he is intent on slaughtering the Aztec people.

After being taken over by the Mexicans, this is the last thing that Malinche wants. She believes him when he says that he has no intention to engage in the mindless slaughter of her people and a love begins to grow between the two. A love so passionate that it threatens to blind Malinche to the truth about who Cortez really is and what he intends to do.

This novel didn't have the flow of her other books; it felt a liiiitle stilted, as if it were trying to find its pace well into the short book. But nevertheless, it is a beautiful read. Part novel, part commentary on life, part philosophy text book, Malinche is sure to delight with words and with a pure love that may survive all that threatens to distroy it.

Most striking of all is the Codex's included with the novel. The Aztecs used Codexs (pictures drawn in sequence) to tell stories and one is here for us to see. Some of the pictures are scattered through out the novel to divide the chapters; but it is the books dust jacket that is the true masterpiece.

If you unfold it, you will be able to follow the love story of Cortez and Malinche without words. The art is beautiful (drawn by Esquivel's own nephew) and is a testament to the Aztec people and a grand love affair.

Read and be enlightened.

Jamieson Wolf
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