My book. A book about me.
Don Jaime Astarloa is a Fencing Master in 1866 Lisbon. He is growing older, his moves slower. Worse, his clientele is dwindling, not wishing to invest the time into an art that is no longer serving a purpose (pistols are becoming more common). Everything Don Jaime believes in: honor, nobility, the monarchy, the way things were and should be, all that is slipping from him.
But Don Jaime (like myself) has decided to maintain himself in his own graces, fixed in his belief of right, of the narrow path and why he should maintain his travel on it. He is simply a gentleman who teaches fencing. And all he has is a small apartment, his handful of students (all young save for one nobleman) and his “two hundred Escudo thrust”, the near-unstoppable thrust the master will sell for the high price of two hundred escudos. In his spare time, he seeks the perfect lunge, the truly unstoppable duel-ender.
Summoned to the home of one Adela de Otero (a woman whom he suspects might have children to tutor) he finds, instead, a bold woman (with a small scar upon her lip) comfortable in fencing, and who wishes his thrust. At first Don Jaime is against this, seeing her as “an adventuress”. But after a bout with her, he realizes she is serious. Worse, he realizes he might be falling in love with her, a woman thirty years his junior.
But there is more: the brewing revolution. The political unrest. A certain mystery contained within letters. Then murders. And attacks on Don Jaime himself. Just what is occurring here?
Beautiful book, one about a man simply going about his life as he wills it, regardless of the changes in the world around him. I absolutely loved this. If I could, I’d have myself lobotomized so I could read it again and love it anew. I’ve read another by this same author, The Club Dumas, and it was wonderful too!
In fact, it was so powerful that I found myself, in unguarded moments, about to recommend it to my late father.
P.S.. I’ve got to give a shout-out to Slightly Foxed, the bookstore on Gloucester Road, London, and the cold day that the proprietor and I talked about books and he recommended this one. I’ve carried his note in my wallet for almost two years, and finally got around it it. Thanks for the tip!