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The House on the Lagoon Paperback – October 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 407 pages
  • Publisher: Plume (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452277078
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452277076
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #901,506 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In The House on the Lagoon, a wealthy Puerto Rican woman decides to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a novelist, much to her husband Quintin's chagrin. Isabel Monfort writes what she knows--the history of her family and Quintin's family, dating back to the turn of the 20th century. When Quentin discovers the work in progress, he is dismayed at her factual errors and unhappy that she reveals so many family secrets. Every couple of chapters, Quintin interrupts Isabel's narrative to tell his version of events and worry aloud about his marriage. At first, he tries not to let his wife know he's reading the novel, but soon he cannot resist writing comments in the margins. This "he said/she said" format allows Rosario Ferré to explore sexual divisions in Puerto Rican society and evaluate the blurred boundaries between fact and fiction.

Ferré also examines Puerto Rico's severe economic and racial divisions in evocative ways. She describes when Quintin's sisters were children, and they grew weary of playing with one of the servant's babies--the two girls decided it might be more fun if the baby were white, so they painted her. The lead paint made the infant deathly ill, and she had to be rushed to the hospital. "Another half an hour of being white, and Carmelina would have died." Isabel remarks.

At times this book is confusing because there are so many characters to keep track of, but the family tree at the beginning of the text makes it a bit easier to follow. Isabel is an engaging narrator who has plenty of racy and tragic stories to tell. The House on the Lagoon is a fascinating introduction to Puerto Rican history and culture. --Jill Marquis --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The Puerto Rican-born Ferre is a prolific writer in Spanish of poetry, criticism, children's books, and fiction (e.g., Sweet Diamond Dust, Ballantine, 1989), but this is her first novel to be written originally in English. A superb storyteller, she here interweaves the passions and struggles of two families?of Isabel and of her husband, Quintin?and several decades of Puerto Rican history, with conflicts of race, class, and changing relations with Spain and the United States. This is a novel within a novel: the character Isabel is writing a novel chronicling the two families, descendants of Spanish, Corsican, and New England ancestors. Quintin discovers her manuscript and, beginning with marginal notes and comments, ultimately writes his own interpretation of the events. Thus, at another level, this is a novel attempting to answer the question: What is a novel? A fascinating work; recommended for literary collections.?Mary Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, Ore.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This is a rich, well-written book packed with interesting characters and history.
A. Lundquist
The white characters are all "realist" in their world perspectives, but the book is full of absurd stereotypes of Puerto Rican black people.
jma@sendanet.es
I read it in English and truly enjoyed the beauty of the writing and extremely well crafted characters.
Alice Phillips

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By "tacomagirl" on October 3, 2003
Format: Paperback
The amazing feat of Rosario Ferre is her ability to weave historical events with a fictional family's history all the while giving the reader an amazing page turner. This book gives a brief lesson in Puerto Rican history and the complexities of race, class and gender relationships.
This novel tells the story of two wealth Puerto Rican families. The tellling of the stories leads to disagreements between the main characters, husband and wife, Quintin and Isabel. Their disagreements beg the reader to decide which one is telling the truth and who is more believable. It is a fascinating journey which challenges the reader, which is exactly what a great book should do.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Alice Phillips on June 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read this book on the recommendation of a friend who is a Puertorriqueno-Americano. He read it in Espanol and loved it. I read it in English and truly enjoyed the beauty of the writing and extremely well crafted characters. Three houses on the lagoon was a stretch of the imagination. I learned at least one woman's perspective of Puerto Rican history and culture presented in a highly palatable form. I have no idea of how well it represents reality (which -- as the book illustrates -- is highly dependent on the eye of the beholder). As a fan of detective novels I ended up thinking that the author killed off more characters than the average thriller. I concluded that Quintin knew the number to the Swiss bank account -- just a strong impression. The book made me want to take my next Caribbean vacation in Puerto Rico. My friend warned me not to expect to find the house on the lagoon which seemed so real to me. Accepted for what it is, this is a fine book.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Alan Cambeira on March 7, 2004
Format: Paperback
Rosario Ferré is without doubt a formidable writer with broad literary formation (holding a doctorate in Latin American literature) and impressive versatility in genres: short story, poetry, essay, novelist. She joins that welcomed and exciting cadre of Latina writers who skillfully articulates profound feminist concerns in their respective societies. In THE HOUSE ON THE LAGOON, Ferré presents two of her constantly recurring themes that form the core of her literary trajectory: Puerto Rican reality past and present ... the agonizing socio-psychological consequences produced by the unique historical-political-economic link to the United States; and Latina feminism accompanied by society's ugly prejudicial response. This story offers a highly critical view of Puerto Rican society with a bold reinterpretation of her island's history. As in all her tales and essays (as she herself has revealed) there is a thinly veiled autobiographical reflection. Ferré crafts a stunning literary language that expresses itself via surreal images similar to those that characterized the vanguard writers and visual artists of the opening decades of the twentieth century. In Spanish we call the technique "desdoblamiento" -- the exposition or unfolding of images to narrate the events afflicting her protagonists. It perhaps functions more intensively in the original Spanish. But what results in essence is a mystical fusion of fiction and reality ... magical realism. This is a mesmerizing work by an extremely talented writer and is highly recommended.
Alan Cambeira
Author of AZUCAR! The Story of Sugar (a novel)
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Like most of the reviewers here, I was totally absorbed by this book and its exquisite vision and representation of a racially separated Puerto Rican world. I wasn't blind to the stereotypes that Ferre employs, just accepting of the fact that her fictional characters have a factual basis in reality.
But what sets this book apart from the other Latin American authors I have read was the marvelous intertextuality of the story--both husband and wife writing and rewriting history while remaining silent with each other. Quintin's contributions to Isabel's story were every bit as fascinating as the family saga she was weaving. But there's not enough of his point of view, as Ferre takes a turn from his perspective to finishing off the story.
The obvious issue at stake here is whether history or fiction has more merit--and whether written family histories MUST be faithful to facts. This ideological debate is one that has polarized academics in the humanities before, and its treatment here was utterly fascinating. Unfortunately, Ferre couldn't sustain that premise, and the novel quickly deteriorates in the final chapters towards its overly Hollywood-ish ending. But up until the last third, it's a marvelous read, and as thought-provoking on racial issues as it is on the themes of revenge, family loyalties, and money.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Garrett and Yolanda on January 16, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I became a fan of Ferre after reading her collection entitled, The Youngest Doll. Present in all of her tales, is the story of an island immersed in a constant struggle between race, language, religion, ownership, and histories which involve three continents. Intertwined within this struggle for identity, Ferre brings a woman, equally intertwined, and equally struggling. The House On The Lagoon is about one woman's attempt to understand and redeem the history of herself, and all of the women in her family, by writing a historical account of their lives (How accurate becomes an issue in the plot, however, it is her bravery in attemptng the rediscovery that is significant). It is also about a husband who is terrified of his wife laying claim to herself. Through this tale we are told stories of several generations-Spaniards, Africans, Corsicans, and Puerto Ricans. We are also given a sense of how the debate as to the island's independence or dependence on the United States has shaped every generation born in Puerto Rico this century. I love Ferre's innovative stories, and her sense of style. When I finished this novel, I felt haunted.
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