The Stephen Moffat quote from Dr Who goes, “We’re all stories in the end, just make it a good one, eh?” Every now and then, an autobiography finds its way into my reading pile that is so extraordinary it straddles the lines of fiction. This was the case with ‘The Hacienda’ by Lisa St Aubin de Teran. Never heard of her? Neither had I.
‘The Hacienda’ tells of a young woman won over by a mysterious South American in England. A supposed bank robber and political exile almost double her age, the two are quickly married and begin the journey back to his homeland where he is patriarch and landowner of a sugar plantation. Far from being the utopia she imagined, she is immediately forced into an exile of her own; abandoned in squalid living quarters and banished from the palatial mansion that is his family home. Together with her two beagles and faced with the ineluctable barriers created by the foreign culture and language, Lisa St Aubin de Teran forged a place for herself in spite of the fact that her husband sporadically absent and revealed himself to be mentally unwell, prone to bouts of violent anger.
What transpires is a tale so unlikely I had to keep reading. Pet vultures, escapades of the locals, mystical superstitions, and her eventual place as dona and mother in this foreign land… It is so fantastic, it is magical. In addition to this, she has the most beautiful writing style, quickly transforming her work into the memoir of legends for me. Emotions abound as tragedy strikes, desperation sinks in, and suspense takes over. Her courage makes her a role model to any woman trying to find her place in the world.
[Post script: Of course, having read her autobiography first, I quickly got my hands on some of her fiction. The review of ‘The Tiger’ to follow shortly 🙂 ]