cover image Conquistadora


Esmeralda Santiago. Knopf, $26.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-307-26832-7

Santiago (When I Was Puerto Rican) brings passion, color, and historical detail to this Puerto Rican Gone with the Wind, featuring a hard-as-nails heroine more devoted to her plantation than to any of the men in her life. Gloriosa Ana Mar%C3%ADa de los %C3%81ngeles Larragoity Cubillas Nieves de Donostia (or, more simply, Ana) grows up in southwest Spain, the willful daughter of aristocratic parents during the waning years of Spain's colonial era. Ana, a not-so-innocent convent girl, marries her best friend's fianc%C3%A9's twin brother, then heads to Puerto Rico without her friend but with both twins in tow. The young men intend to make their fortunes managing a sugar plantation, but it is Ana who has the business-savvy and determination to persevere through hurricanes, slave revolts, cholera, and any other challenge the island has to offer, relying on an assortment of slaves, servants, and employees, among them mayordomo Severo Fuentes, who dares to want Ana for his wife. Santiago makes Caribbean history come alive through characters as human as they are iconic. The richness of her imagination and the lushness of her language will serve saga enthusiasts well, and she provides readers a massive panorama of plantation life, plus all you could ever want to know and more about growing sugar cane. (July)