That Bringas Woman, by Benito Pérez Galdós

I haven’t made my mind up yet about Pérez Galdós: – previously I’ve read his novel Miau, and now this one (if I have read any others, I have forgotten them). There’s certainly worthwhile elements to That Bringas Woman; but on the other hand, I did also at times find myself bored.

The woman of the title is married to Bringas, a miser who works for the Spanish state; her only interest is in clothes and other finery, such that she can cut a figure in the best Spanish society. She’s friends with other women whose husbands, while being less miserly than Bringas and on the surface making more money, in reality have themselves become indebted through the impossible struggle to maintain their own status in society. So we have a portrait of a society where everyone is living beyond their means – and, of course, our heroine is led to follow their example.

Now in writing That Bringas Woman, Pérez Galdós seems to have swallowed Emile Zola whole; and overall this is a bad thing; – because really I’m not so interested in pages and pages on ladies’ haberdashery, and it’s here I start to yawn and I lay it aside for a few weeks. But thankfully this is not the whole of the novel. I enjoyed the opening with its description of the hair picture (it’s a picture made out of human hair), but my favourite bits were the descriptions of life in the palace of the Spanish king – an entire world unto itself not unlike Mervyn Peake’s Gormanghast – a vast warren of a royal residence, in which families serving the state live according to status. But though it’s a nice spiteful take on Spanish society – and though a reckoning is coming in the form of Republican unrest – in truth not much really happens, and what does is usually repetitious.

I might read another Pérez Galdós though: I have Melancholia, which is one of the more famous ones.