Tuesday, September 4, 2012

O Segredo da Bastarda - Cristina Norton

My first entry in the Portuguese Historical FictionChallenge was less than a success and ended up being a DNF. I considered picking it up at a later date but with so many potential good books waiting in the TBR pile I decided against it.

The Segredo da Bastarda, which title could be translated has the secret of the illegitimate daughter, is the story of Eugenia de Menezes, a young lady of aristocratic families who bore a daughter out of wedlock. According to the gossip of the time the baby was supposedly an illegitimate daughter of King John VI.

I had several problems with the story. The first is that there are three different stories in this novel. One about Eugenia de Menezes and her life. The others are about her child Eugenia who lives in Madeira with her sick daughter Isabel. And finally some chapters are from the point of view of Our Lady, patron saint of Portugal and godmother to Eugenia de Menezes. 

I thought the Our Lady chapters were weird and the Eugenia (daughter)/Isabel chapters weren't enough to keep me interested. Regarding the main character, I think the author spent too much time describing the birth and younger years of Eugenia de Menezes and not enough time making her an engaging person. The most interesting thing about her was her "almost relationship" with William Beckford. She is described as highly intelligent, with an education as good as her brother's, which was saying something for that period, but in her daily life her only accomplishments were singing and looking beautiful...

Sadly I didn't find her interesting enough and I kept putting the book down to read other things. That is never a good sign! I had to force myself to pick it up more than once till I finally decided it wasn't worth it...

Grade: DNF


  1. Ana, are you planning to extend this challenge to 2013? It's been on my mind lately that I know more about British and American history than I know that of my own country. I planned to do something about it in 2013 by reading more historical fiction and non-fiction about Portuguese history and this seems like the perfect blogging event to accompany it.

    Thank for the recommendations as well. I haven't lived in Portugal in a while now and every time I'm there and try to chose an historical novel I get a bit overwhelmed with the endless options and the unknown author names.

    1. I definitely am! I need to read more portuguese HF. You are most welcome. I plan to add to that list as I find new titles.

  2. PS: I've lately read a couple of really great books in English about Portuguese history (fiction and non-fiction) that might be good recommendations for the international book bloggers who wish to participate in the Challenge:

    - "Lisbon: War in the Shadows of the City of Light, 1939-45" by Neil Lochery (non-fiction)

    - "Wrath of God: The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755" by Edward Paice (non-fiction)

    - "Scales of God (House of Niccolo #3)" by Dorothy Dunnett (fiction)

    - "A Small Death in Lisbon" by Robert Wilson (fiction)

    I'm still looking for a good biography (in PT or EN) of the Infante D. Henrique. Any recommendations?

  3. Thank you for those recommendations. The only title I was familiar with was A Small Death in Lisbon.

    Sorry, I have no recs for Infante Dom Henrique at the moment. I've seen one biography at the bookstore but I haven't bought it yet. I'll let you know if I do and would welcome any suggestions you may have about the same subject.


I love to chat about books and stuff and I would love to hear from like minded readers. Please do leave me a comment :-)


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