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A Woman Unknown: Voices from a Spanish Life

4.7 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1582430973
ISBN-10: 1582430977
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A hybrid of biography, memoir and travel essay, this is a portrait of life in the dazzling cornucopia of Spain. Graves is the only daughter of poet Robert Graves's first marriage. Born in Devon, England, in 1943, she was raised on the Spanish island of Majorca, and her memoir deals mainly with her experiences growing up in post-civil war Spain under Franco's regime. However dominating that rule was, her enchanting village escaped much of it, enveloping Lucia and her brothers in a safe haven marked by beautiful landscapes, rich folklore and a vibrant linguistic tradition. The book is loosely chronological, spanning her life and ties to Catalonia, the region of northeastern Spain near France and Andorra, whose principal city is Barcelona. Growing up there among the devoutly Catholic and unmistakably Spanish, she absorbed many of their beliefs and customs, although she herself was neither Catholic nor Spanish. She reveres the language of Catalan, attributing its energy and beauty to its speakers. After studies at the International School in Geneva and Oxford, she returned to Spain and started a family in the Barcelona area. Her status as a foreigner in a familiar land gives her a unique perspective on Spain's identityDone that is frequently caught between antiquated Franco-era customs, the repressed society it yielded and the modernization brought about by political change. Written in fluid, conversational prose, this memoir will draw and captivate both readers of memoirs and those who enjoyed Chris Stewart's Driving over Lemons.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From The New Yorker

"Graves has given us a multifamily portrait as essential to the understanding of the reversals of present-day Spain..."
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press (September 20, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582430977
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582430973
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,376,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is an extraordinary book written by the daughter of one of my favorite writers: Robert Graves (I, Claudius; Goodby to All That). Her prose is lyrical, near poetical. She is truly a woman of letters, a careful crafter of complex and beautiful writing.
It is the story of her life, written not as biography, but more as a long letter to a friend. Her presentation is not necessarily chronological, not necessarily sequential, but always emotionally rich and revealing of the construction of her soul, layer by layer, starting as a child. If the facts of the book skip around, her development from child to young lady to mother to divorcee to woman in love does not vary from its relentless order. Without attempting to be so, it is a truly feminist tract lacking bitterness or resentments.
I found some extraordinary parallels between Lucia's childhood and mine, even if they don't include gender: I too moved to Majorca as a small child, learned the local language (Mallorquín)and so became trilingual with English and Spanish, attended elementary school with nuns, knew the landscape around where Lucia lived, and thus was immediately able to recognize a beach she describes as one I had ofted bathed in (Sóller). These coincidences -of which there are many more- biased me in favor of her book instantly, and perhaps rendered the reading of her work a different and more satisfying experience than it will be to the average reader who has never been to this island; on the positive side, my experience allows me to certify to Ms. Graves's extraordinary capacity to describe the feel, color and culture of the island. She does this better than any other writer I have ever encountered who attempted to speak about Mallorca. The true universalism of her book, however, lies in the description of her interior development, and that is what this work is finally all about. I recommend it highly.
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Format: Paperback
Concha Alborg's review of "A Woman Unknown" is riddled with errors.

She leaves an erroneous impression when she writes "Lucia Graves is the daughter of Robert Graves, the English poet who lived in Majorca with his Spanish wife and children for several years." Lucia is the daughter of Robert Graves and his second wife, which "A Woman Unknown" clearly states on page 6. it's also clear from the text that Lucia's mother is English. There's a great deal of information about her in this autobiography,even her maiden name, Pritchard.

Alborg also writes "The reader is left wondering what led to her divorce from her Catalan husband ... "

Not so. The author explains at length that she and her husband, who married quite young, simply grew apart in their interests and activities.

"we know little more than her oldest daughter's name and not even that of her other two daughters" Alborg says. Again, not so. The third daughter's naming is discussed at some length (it's Natalia) in a quite comical scene in the labor room, when the attending nurses urge Lucia to name her daughter Purificacion, in honor of that day in the Roman Catholic calendar.

Emy Louie also errs in referring to Lucia "Roman Catholic upbringings". Her parents were firmly agnostic, a major source of conflict during her girlhood time in a convent school, and of shaping her thought.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've not read another book as lovely as this one in a long time! The estimable daughter of Robert Graves creates in beautiful prose an estimable voice of her own, while wearing warm and honorable traces of her father's literary genius; there's a common clarity, and distinction in the language. There's remarkable writing on every page; the ever so gradual reaching deep into the heart of Franco almost by not mentioning him, the destruction of her Spain from within, the passion of her love for her Catalan self, among her many selves- it's a thoroughly important book in every way. The first and last sections work like bookends and are epsecially right; Graves' subtle reflections on her relationship with her mother. This is English prose of the first order. Of course, one has a natural penchant to want to find wonderful amber things in her writing, given one's regard for the work of her father; the interesting thing is that her own voice presents itself right off, so much so that one ends praising even more the virtue of the inheritance, rather than getting lost in the echos. Her reflections on the work of a translator are beautifully woven throughout the book, and reveal a meticulous care for the possibilities of language. The ways in which she chooses to speak of her father in this memoir are memorable; at the oddest, least unexpected moment the narrative will turn and there is Robert Graves, father. This really is an irrepleaceable work of art. I commend it to everyone to read, there is something for every reader in these slender pages, and that surely expresses the consummate perfection of its parts.
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Format: Paperback
It was a whim that brought me to Lucia Graves' memoir "A Woman Unknown: Voices from a Spanish Life." I had just finished reading Carlos Ruiz Zafón's "The Shadow of the Wind," and was thoroughly entranced by its soaring lyrical prose. I noticed that the book was translated into English from Spanish and wondered whether the high quality of the prose might owe a great deal to the translator. So, I started investigating Lucia Graves' writings and discovered this exquisite memoir.

I rarely read autobiographies, but once I stared this work, I couldn't put it down--within a few pages, I felt like a spell had been cast. Soon, I was deep into a serene meditation on life--uncommon and fascinating for its vibrant Spanish twist, and subtle feminist slant. Finding this book was like suddenly discovering a refreshing mountain spring after a long summer hike: I had no idea how thirsty I was for a lush literary work dealing with the inner lives of women.

Naturally, most of the work deals with the life of the author, Lucia Graves. She is the daughter of Robert Graves, the famous English poet, novelist, biographer, essayist, scholar, and translator. She was raised on the island of Majorca, a place with a distinct cultural subset from the mainland Catalonian culture of northeastern Spain. She spoke English at home, Majorcan to the village people, and Castilian Spanish in school. Her father taught her a deep abiding love for words and language. There were dictionaries in every room of her childhood home so that the precise word might be found and discussed at any time.
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