Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Book Review Summer Reading: Fencing in Spain When It Meant Something

Book Review/Summer Reading

Eric Green

The Fencing Master
Arturo Perez-Reverte
Harcourt, 1988

I recently reviewed a new book by Perez-Reverte, "The Painter of Battles." That book illustrated the ability of Perez-Reverte to take historical events that case the Yugoslavia wars, and apply them to a real, tough mystery novel. In this book, he takes us back to a period of Spanish history that seemed pivotal to the nation. The date was 1868 and the mystery novel takes place in Madrid.

The main character is Don Jaime, a fencing master in his late fifties, who tries to keep himself in a totally apolitical space in a world, which was totally political. Monarchists, reformists and all of the shades of politics that were around in that time period won't leave the master alone.

Perez-Reverte once again delves deeply into a very intricate world, in this case fencing, and given the reader descriptions of fencing that he or she probably has never encountered. While at times the descriptions are rather technical the reader doesn't lose interest in the overarching theme of the book. And, like with the painter, you can actually learn something about fencing which is now a sport, but then was a way of life and death.

That theme goes from a possible love story to a very demanding, often gruesome, description of events that surround all of Spain and the fencing master, in particular.

The 230 pages go quickly, but not without being deeply affected by all of the characters regardless of their status, gender or any other category.

The book is a little old. A good friend gave me it during her garage sale, $1.00, who strongly recommended it, but it is probably still accessible. Her recommendation was right on target.

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