A Woman of Seville

Written by Sallie Muirden
Review by Elizabeth Jane

At noon each day, Paula Sanchez, a courtesan in the city of Seville, enters the Mercedarian convent along with the handsome Father Rastro, a horse, and the young monk Victor Maria, to sit for a painting of The Penitent Magdalen. By night she escapes the unwelcome attentions of her stout benefactor, Bishop Rizi, for the arms of the mysterious ladder man. As Paula dances, climbs, and makes love on the rooftops of Seville, she rediscovers balance, the love and security of her childhood, and her untapped desires.

Apprentice painter, Diego Velasquez, climbs the church tower to spy on the curious party, along with his master Pacheco and a telescope. Why do they enter the convent? What keeps them occupied? Will the inquisitor Carlos Zamorana approve of their activities? As Diego’s investigations uncover the true nature of their visits, he becomes reacquainted with his first love Paula, and the desperate plight of the young Moorish boys held within the convent. He and Paula conspire to help the imprisoned children. But the church is determined they will not escape.

A Woman of Seville is a lush, sensory experience of food, art, 17th-century couture, and the all-pervasive fear of the Spanish Inquisition. At the same time, it is a magical fable, not quite fantasy, not quite reality: an intelligent story in which the author explores themes of love and redemption in a rich symbolic style. This novel is not for the fainthearted but demands the careful attention of its reader. It will appeal to those who love a lyrical, poetic voice and a high literary style.