There is a book I read every few years, a book with covers yellowed by age and coffee stained pages. I found it ages ago it seems, in the bookcase my parents had in the living room. Every time I hold it in my hands I make a mental note to ask them how it got there and every time I forget.
It never crossed my mind to write a review for it until now. I do so today (after I finished re-reading the book just yesterday) because I don’t want this book to be forgotten, because it deserves more than that. Much more. Every time I read it I find new meaning in its words and even though I know sections of it by heart, I still look forward to reading them.
The story, ah, the story! Who hasn’t heard of Don Juan, one of the most famous myths in literature! His name is like a cloak under which hide young noble men whose only pursuit in life is the pleasure of the flesh. A myth as old almost as time itself. And yet, this story is alive. Every word seems to burn the page, rushing like blood through the veins after a quick run. It never falters and every page brings about a new and unforeseeable turn.
The events start in 1640, the year Miguel de Mañara turns fourteen. We get a glimpse into his family life and we see his hot- tempered father, one of the richest nobles of Spain, and his quiet religious mother whose heart hides a secret known to very few. Their lives play out against the background of a tormented country weakened by constant wars, where the gap between the rich and the poor is like an abyss with an invisible end, and where the Inquisition sees with its ever watchful eye and reaches with its greedy hands into the lives of people.
Miguel is the main character of the tale, and we get to see him grow from the young, timid boy, whose emotions are greater than he can control, to the impetuous ruthless young nobleman whose money and adventures make him feared throughout the land.
There are two people who will influence his life, both priests and both chosen by his parents, but they are as different as night and day, and under their teachings and their advice his life alters with dramatic consequences. Will he follow the path of his good Padre Gregorio, will he succumb to the twisted views of Trifon, or will he find another way? Will his search for love bring him peace or will it crush him? Questions I never tire of reading the answers to, time and again.