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.

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2 thoughts on “That Bringas Woman, by Benito Pérez Galdós

  1. When I first read “Fortunata and Jacinta” some twenty or so years ago now, I was very much taken by it. I still think it is a marvellous novel: amongst other things, it contains one of the finest depictions of mental illness I have come across. After that, I read quite a few of Perez-Galdos’ novels. I particularly enjoyed his two late novels “Misericordia” and “Nazarin” (the latter forming the basis of one of Luis Bunuel’s best films). But, of late, I find myself a bit bored with novels of social realism – novels that depict with scrupulous care the structure and the workings of society. (And this owes at least as much to Balzac, I think, as it does to Zola.) This is not a criticism of such novels, but, rather, a comment on my own changing perceptions and priorities: I am more interested now in the characters’ inner lives, and in the more hidden, subterranean aspects of human minds; and, while Perez Galdos is not deficient in these respects, neither are these his primary focus.

    I have “That Bringas Woman” on my shelves, but the fact that it has been on my shelves for a few years now without being opened rather tells its own story, I think.

  2. I feel the same more and more these days – part of why I struggle to read a lot of books in general. There are books I read years ago and enjoyed which I don’t think I’d have the patience to read any longer. I too am more susceptible to characters’ lives; people undergoing emotions. Zola in particular used to be my favourite writer; but I struggle with him at times these days – and I’m not entirely convinced it’s because I’m making my way through his lesser novels.

    Still, That Bringas Woman isn’t exactly long. I had it on my shelf, I reckon, between 5-10 years before reading it, which is probably about the average these days.

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