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The Conquest Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 1, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Rayo; 1st edition (October 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060093595
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060093594
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,913,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Moving away from the urban barrio settings of her previous works, Murray (Locas; What It Takes to Get to Vegas) entwines the tales of two Latin American women separated by centuries in her third novel. Sara Gonzales is a rare-book restorer at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. While working on a 16th-century manuscript, she becomes engrossed in its story of an Aztec woman captured by Cort‚s and sent to Europe to entertain the pope. The narrator of the manuscript, "Helen," describes her encounters with the painter Titian, for whom she served as a muse; her many female lovers, including the adored Caterina, a bluestocking nun; and her ever-burning desire to avenge the deaths of her own people by assassinating Cort‚s, the pope and Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor. Sara's boss and the scholarly community consider the manuscript to be a work of fiction, but Sara believes otherwise-and endeavors to prove Helen's existence and authorship. Meanwhile, there is the issue of Sara's on-again, off-again relationship with Karl, the man she has loved since high school, who is set to marry another woman because Sara has never been able to fully commit. Sara's life, so claustrophobically focused on her work, stands in effective contrast to Helen's swashbuckling escapades across Mediterranean Europe; Sara's quest for personal satisfaction-as well as her thoughtful musings on history and her own sense of displacement as a Latina-are echoed on a grand scale in Helen's encounters with the Europeans. The subplot about Sara's literary sleuthing ties the two stories neatly together and gives the book a satisfying edge of suspense.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

What does the edgy, uncertain young Sara Rosario Gonzalez have in common with Helen, an impassioned Aztec woman whom Cort‚s enslaves and eventually gives to the Pope as a gift? In fact, though they are separated by centuries-as are the alternating parts of this book-Sara and Helen share a profound sense of displacement that resonates throughout. Sara, a restorer of rare books and manuscripts at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, has been assigned a 16th-century manuscript featuring Helen's exploits, from dalliances in Titian's Venice to an attempt on the Pope's life. Everyone else believes the manuscript to be a fantasy penned by a mad monk, but Sara demurs, insisting that whether or not the story is fancy, Helen herself is the author. As she digs deeper into the manuscript, Sara battles cultural confusion and an inability to commit to Karl, aptly summed up by her spending money for the wedding ring on a rare book. Whiting Award winner Murray does a splendid job of evoking the passions of both women, and she effectively fuses the two halves of the story. Helen's passages in particular could have sounded didactic or forced, but they are in fact vibrant-and for once, the italics used to set them off are easy to read. Recommended for most collections.
Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on December 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Incunabula. Would you worship a goddess so named? Sara Gonzales, book restorer at the Getty Museum, has devoted her life to incunabula, a term referring to books created before the common use of the printing press. She has sacrificed love and marriage to pursue her career and has come to question this decision. Now, just as she learns that the man she has loved since her teen years, an astronaut-hopeful named Karl, has finally grown tired of their on-again-off-again romance and plans to marry someone else, she discovers a strange and compelling book.
Although it is believed to have been written by Padre Miguel Santiago de Pasamonte, a mad monk notorious for his sensual adventures and salacious novels, Sara comes to believe this book is not a novel at all; rather a memoir by the main character, an Aztec woman brought back to Europe by the explorer Cortes to amuse the Pope. The Aztec woman is known as Helen in Europe and she cuts a swashbuckling figure as she perfects her mystical juggling and bisexual seductive arts, all the while consumed with her thirst for revenge against Charles V, the ruler responsible for the destruction of her people.
The Conquest bounces between these two stories: Sara tries to decide what she really wants from her career and lost love, while Helen plays very modern games with gender and identity in order to pursue her agenda. Both women realize that the path to the objects of their desire can warp what they think they want, but the two stories haven't much else in common.
Karl is the weakest character in the book; the reader might wonder why Sara invests so much in a bland, fairly ordinary man with whom she has so little in common. Well, there's the sex, of course. The great strength of The Conquest is its sensuality. Whether Ms.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on January 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Sara Rosario Gonzales works as a rare-book restorer at Los Angeles' Getty Museum. Her current assignment is to mend a sixteenth century manuscript, the story of "Helen" an Aztec woman Cortez sent as a present to the Pope.
Upset in her personal life as her marine boyfriend is going to marry someone else because she failed to commit, Sara buries her unhappiness inside the restoration project. She soon believes that the story of the Aztec female is authentic, but everyone else insists its fiction. She begins researching clues to this Helen, her baptized name the Aztec received in Rome. For the first time in her shallow life, Sara commits to something with her heart as she seeks the truth whether Helen the Aztec really existed and had these wonderful adventures in Europe.
The contrast between Helen and Sara is startling as the former lives life to the fullest and the latter avoids life to the least degree yet both share in common a feeling of displacement. Obviously Helen's is easier to observe, but Sara's Latino heritage makes her feel out of sorts also. Sara's search for the truth links the two subplots neatly together. Though at times the tale slows down, fans obtain an intriguing character study that compares how two people living centuries apart share the same feelings of not belonging.
Harriet Klausner
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By A. Dov Patrick on August 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
Although this is an historical mystery novel, it is also very thoughtful and romantic.

as you could read in other reviews, it is a novel about a modern Mexican-American woman's obsession with the story of an Aztec girl brought to Europe.

The woman, Sara Rosario Gonzalez, is convinced she's on to something when she is assigned to restore a 16th century manuscript, which she calls The Conquest. The book tells the story of an Aztec girl who was brought to Europe with a band of jugglers after Cortes' destruction of Tenochtitlan. Most scholars ascribe the author of the story to an Italian priest called Padre Miguel Santiago de Pasamonte, but Sara believes the book was written by the girl herself.

Her obsession with the book wreaks havoc on her personal life, however. Ever since high school, she's been involved with Karl, an army officer who dreams of becoming an astronaut. Although their bond can never be replaced, Karl is tired of waiting for Sara and becomes engaged to another woman. Sara tries to win him back but he knows her love affair with books isn't over.

The story follows Sara's thoughts as she struggles with her love for Karl on the one hand and her mission to solve the mystery of The Conquest's author on the other.

The story shifts away from the book and back to Sara who makes one last attempt to win Karl back. She has always been able to do so by seducing him with her storytelling. She takes him to the scene of their first meeting, the beach, and tries once again to win him over with her story of Helen. This time, however, Karl asks her point-blank whether she's ready to settle down and marry him. When she is unable to do so, he leaves.

Helen's story is very interesting, too.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Mila on August 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Murray's book "The Conquest" follow's two women's lives and the experiences they have. One is a present day woman (Sara) finding difficulty choosing between her love of mysterious ancient manuscripts and that of a man, while the other is the focus of Sara's intellectual obsession; an Aztec woman who finds herself in Europe after the massacre of her people, and how she deals with desires of the body and revenge.

While I can say I enjoyed this book, the pace wasn't quite what I look for. It's not exactly a page turner, but there is interest enough to keep the story moving. My problem lies in the motivations and background of each woman. One bent on revenge who the next moment forgets her plans on a whim? and the other finding what truly makes her happy out of life and ends up sending some mixed messages about the past and present along the way.

It was a good read. It flowed well and I found the fictional experiences entertaining. However I don't know that it will be that memorable of a book which I'll remember a month from now.
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