Prudencia Prim is a young woman of high ideals, intelligence and achievement, with an extensive knowledge of literature and several letters after her name. But when she accepts the post of private librarian to a wealthy bibliophile in the secluded village of San Ireneo de Arnois, she is unprepared for what she will encounter there. Her employer, a philosopher and intellectual, is dashing yet contrarian, always ready with a stinging critique of her beloved Austen and Alcott. And the neighbours are also capable of charm and eccentricity in equal measure, determined as they are to preserve their singular little community from the outside world.
Thoughtful, gentle Prudencia might have hoped for friendship in San Ireneo but she didn’t expect to find romance – nor did she expect the course of her new life to run quite so rocky, to offer challenge and heartache as well as discovery, joy and delicious regional pastries. The Awakening of Miss Prim is a delightfully unusual and entertaining tale of literature, love and the search for happiness.
The Awakening of Miss Prim was the first galley in my attempts to read a wider range. It turned out to be a good choice, despite not being the easiest read. Awakening of Miss Prim is a delightful story of a young woman growing into herself and learning to understand and appreciate the opinions around her.
Miss Prim is not an immediately likeable character. She is stubborn, condescending and unsympathetic; Miss Prim shows a proud and rather haughty front when she disagrees with the actions and opinions of her employer – the mysterious Man in the Wingchair. Prudencia Prim regularly lets opposing opinions hurt her feelings instead of allowing the conversation to become a friendly debate. The Man in the Wingchair deliberately baits her, hoping to encourage more liberal thinking from Miss Prim who believes herself to be correct in all her assumptions due to the extent of her education.
The Awakening of Miss Prim is not an easy read. It requires an extensive understanding of literature, language and philosophy to feel comfortable settling down and understanding the story. Unfortunately, I was left feeling confused, unsatisfied and a little insulted by the presumptuous of the author. I doubt it was Fenollera’s intention to leave the reader feeling unworthy, but the constant referencing of classic and complex philosophical materials was a little overwhelming. The sheer amount of material detracted from the plot – a shame considering the beautiful background characters Fenollera introduced us to.
The community of San Ireneo de Arnois is full of unconventional people who have escaped city life to live peacefully and eccentrically amongst others who share their lust for a quiet life. The people of the community are unusual – the feminist association believe in strong woman with careers of their own, but believe there can be no stronger position in life than a working woman with a husband to support her independence. A big city journalist is baking pastries, the school teacher is chosen for her simple intelligence and young children can quote the classics from memory. Fenollera creates a lovely image of a quaint but forward thinking society more interested in supporting each other than themselves.
I found The Awakening of Miss Prim to be an enjoyable reading experience with likeable characters and a thrilling, if slow, adventure.