Sunday, February 6, 2011

Short but satisfying

Last month, the book club I belonged to had an online discussion on coming-of-age novels that the members find memorable. And one of the novels that received special mention, especially from my fellow book blogger Honey, was The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.

The House on Mango Street is a very short work of fiction, just a little over 100 pages. But it's one of the most satisfying 100 pages that I've ever read. The novel basically describes the hardships that the Cordero family endures as immigrants to the US, all told through the voice of Esperanza. Because Cisneros is a poet, the words in the novel flow beautifully. Cisneros's writing style, as she describes the coming of age of Esperanza, is lyrical.
In English my name means hope. In Spanish it means too many letters. It means sadness, it means waiting. It is like the number nine. A muddy color. It is the Mexican records my father plays on Sunday mornings when he is shaving, songs like sobbing.
Seldom does a novel evoke so many feelings in me as this one. Esperanza's story, told in vignettes that run for an average of 2 pages each, is sad, funny, life affirming, and brutal in equal doses. I found myself angry after reading Esperanza's sexual violation. I laughed at all the hysterical episodes in her childhood.

Ultimately, The House on Mango Street is anything but hopeful. In the Cordero's house in Mango Street, where the residents are subjected to racism and so many disheartening experiences, one can only survive by realizing that he can rise above it all.

Read this book if:
  1. You like coming-of-age fiction.
  2. You love a touch of poetry in your novels.
  3. Your parents are immigrants themselves.

12 comments:

fantaghiro23 said...

Very glad you enjoyed this book, Peter! The book may have been short, but it did take me long to read because, as you say, of all the emotions it evoked.

Peter S. said...

Thanks for bringing this book to my attention, Honey!

Edilicious said...

Interesting. Will try to read it soon!

Jeane said...

Sadly I found this one dissatisfying. The vignettes all felt too brief and shallow. I guess it doens't help that I'm not a big fan of poetry; the style just didn't suit me.

Peter S. said...

@Edilicious: I hope you like it as much as I did!

Jeane: Oh well, that's what makes visiting book blogs intersting, no? I just love reading about bloggers' differing opinions.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I read this one a few years ago, but thought it was very good.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Diane! It's one of the best coming-of-age fiction I've read.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

Hi Peter - had to stop in say hi and see what you are reading. This is a book I would love to read someday!

Nadia said...

So glad you enjoyed this book - it is one of my favorites. Actually, I just love all of Cisneros' works - she is truly an amazing author. Definitely a must read! As a Chicana, I definitely identified with the characters of the book on a cultural level and felt that I was reading about people I knew and experiences I had once had. Excellent post!

Peter S. said...

@Sheila: Thanks for dropping by! I hope you get to read it soon. I'm sure that you'll only spend 2 hours on it!

@Nadia: I think I'll find other copies of Cisneros's work.

blooey said...

I really should read this na!

Peter S. said...

Hi, Blooey! Oh, you should!