Renato Cisneros’s great-great-grandmother Nicolasa bore seven children by her long-term secret love, who was also her priest, raising them alone in nineteenth century Peru. More than a century later, Renato, the descendent of that clandestine affair, struggles to wring information about his origins out of recalcitrant relatives, whose foibles match the adventures and dalliances of their ancestors. As buried secrets are brought into the light, the story of Nicolasa’s progeny unfolds, bound up with key moments in the development of the Republic of Peru since its independence.
My thoughts: families are complicated and messy and not always proud of their origins. Secrets are part of the author’s family, no one wants to admit to where they came from and what their ancestors were doing, he has to slowly tease out the stories and details from his relatives.
But what a story. Not the tragic story of a woman who as a priest’s mistress can never announce their love and give their children legitimacy, but the incredible story of a family who are so close to greatness and instrumental in the shaping of the independent Republic of Peru. From the declaration of their separation from Spain in the 1920s to the modern day, the Cisneros family descended from Nicolasa are right at the heart of everything.
Tracing his ancestors, from great-great-grandfather down, the author fills his pages with moving and heartbreaking love stories, cycles that seem doomed to repeat, of children neglected and wives betrayed, of oceans separating generations. There’s exile and intrigue, bravery and foolishness. But the family always survive.
With uncle Gustavo on hand to fill in some of the details from his own research, Renato builds an elaborate and detailed history of an incredible family, who should be proud of their name and place in Peruvian history.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.