The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo’s (1907-1954) life is immortalized in her prismatic self-portraits. F.G. Haghenbeck embraces her often outlandish and spirited personality in The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo, a novel from Frida’s point of view told in an anecdotal diary format, based on the discovery of notebooks at her home in Mexico. The Hierba Santa Book (The Sacred Herbs Book) was never found.
Regardless of whether you have read about Kahlo, Haghenbeck has created a worthy portrayal of Frida, the artist, in this three-dimensionally tangible novel. Kahlo is an iconic figure who refused to give up on life. As a child, she recovered from life-threatening polio that left her with a withered spindly leg. She survived a near-fatal and self-described near-death experience after a horrific accident, when metal impaled her body. Kahlo believed she died that day, and Haghenbeck describes her life as haunted by two things: The Messenger (of death) and her spindly leg. She suffered unimaginable pain. To compensate, she learned to paint on her back with a mirror. She was cruelly taunted for her deformity and suffered the inability to have children.
Haghenbeck depicts the artist’s indomitable zest for life through her numerous friendships with O’Keeffe, Trotsky, Hemingway, Rockefeller, Dali, Dos Passos and Henry Miller. Frida’s legendary recipes appear at the end of each chapter, a tasty culinary bonus. Above all, her tempestuous relationship with Diego Rivera would provide a lifelong challenge of emotional complexity, a man she would always love.
Anyone who is familiar with Frida Kahlo will agree that Haghenbeck has nailed her persona. The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo is a novel as alluring and mystifying as the artist herself. A highly recommended accompaniment to the existing biographical works available.