cover image A Week in October

A Week in October

Elizabeth Subercaseaux, , trans. from the Spanish by Marina Harss. . Other Press, $22.95 (208pp) ISBN 978-1-59051-288-3

Chilean author Subercaseaux's intense and engrossing novel (the first one to be translated into English) delves deeply into the troubled psyche and marriage of a woman dying of cancer. In the last months of her life, 46-year-old Clara Griffin, the reserved, childless, well-to-do wife of architect Clemente Balmaceda, begins a fictionalized journal that her husband will secretly read and agonize over. In alternating chapters, Subercaseaux (the great-great-granddaughter of composer Robert Schumann) sets up a coiled tension between what Clara has written, an intimate roman à clef about her coming death and lack of passion for her husband, and her husband's reaction. Clemente is by turns bewildered by her “embellishments” and shocked by her revelations. The crux of Clara's grief stems from Clemente's longstanding affair with another woman, which Clara, as Clemente learns from her notebook, has endured in silence for years. A method of instilling desire, exacting vengeance or simply finding happiness, Clara's notebook digs into the slippery, treacherous nature of love, deception, truth, guilt and loyalty. (Aug.)