Blog Tour: The Bitch, Pilar Quintana, translated by Lisa Dillman

Book Review: The Bitch, Pilar Quintana, translated by Lisa Dillman

 

the bitch cover

Book Review: The Bitch, Pilar Quintana, translated by Lisa Dillman

BLOG TOUR, THURSDAY AUGUST 20, 2020

 

Some books raise very mixed emotions in me. The Bitch is one of those books. It is a terribly wonderful story, an emotional bungee jump that sent my heart racing and breaking. Pilar Quintana’s short novel is longing and desperate and painful.

 

Damaris is a childless woman trapped in an emotionally painful marriage. She lives in a village along the coast of Colombia, in a place where the jungle and the beach meet. Her husband fishes and cares for the yard and maintenance of a rich family’s house. She cleans the house.

 

They are desperately poor. The rich family left the house years before after a family tragedy. Damaris and her husband continue to do their work faithfully, but they have not been paid for their work since the family left. Although the ocean and the jungle provide food, they have very few possessions and live in a rundown shack on the rich family’s property.

 

Desperate for love, Damaris adopts a small puppy. A little girl, Damaris gives her the name of the daughter she never had. The puppy accompanies her everywhere, riding in Damaris’ brassiere until the puppy grows too large. Damaris feeds her table scraps, sings to her, pets her, and becomes emotionally bound to the small dog.

 

Then the dog disappears into the jungle.

 

The story does not end there. The dog returns home. But the relationship  between Damaris and her dog has changed irrevocably. Damaris’ obsession becomes a form of madness and the tenuous line between love and hate gets blurred further in each chapter.

 

Damaris is a broken woman. Abandoned by her parents. Treated cruelly by her cousin. Emotionally abused by her husband. A black woman in a society that favors white people, even in the wilderness of Colombia. Still blaming herself for the tragedy that caused the rich family to leave, even though she was only a child when it happened. For most of her life, poverty and pain have been her constant companions. None of this excuses the pain Damaris inflicts on others herself, but perhaps it does give some context and understanding of her desperation and emotional flailing.

 

This story may be set in Colombia but it could take place anywhere in the world. There are people like Damaris everywhere, from rich countries like those in North America and Europe to the poorest of countries in Asia and Africa. These are people that are easy to overlook, to ignore, to pretend do not exist. Yet their stories need to be told, and Pilar Quintana does a marvelous job telling this story.

 

I should also express my appreciation to the translator. Although I am not fluent in any language other than English (how typically American of me, I know), translating literature so that it maintains the beauty and magic of the original language is itself a creative endeavor, one that goes well beyond moving words from one language to another. This book would be inaccessible to me in Spanish. Thanks to Lisa Dillman, it is not only written in English but it carries its stark beauty and power to new readers.

 

The Bitch is not an easy book to read. It is emotionally fraught. It builds slowly to its finale, but allows that conclusion to concuss the reader. Still, it is a book that deserves to be read and discussed and appreciated for the beauty of its language, the vividness of its setting, the unsparing view of its protagonist, and the painful exposure of its plot.

 

Pilar Quintana Author pic poster bitch

Our thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Blog Tours for our copy of this book, provided in exchange for our participation in the blog tour celebrating its release in English. For other perspectives on The Bitch, check out the other bloggers on the tour. The opinions here are solely those of Scintilla.

 

the bitch cover

Book Review: The Bitch, Pilar Quintana, translated by Lisa Dillman

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