This was a difficult one to get my hands on in English. This was the last university text that I had to find and read, and the fact that the book it came in didn’t appear to be in print over in the UK only made it that much harder. Hence why I have an old, battered copy of Three Exemplary Novels that I had to get shipped from the US. So after all that, was Nothing Less Than a Man worth the time and effort?
Nothing Less Than a Man starts with a young woman named Julia, who is renowned for miles around for her beauty. Her father is experiencing financial troubles and sees her beauty as a means of clearing that debt; aware that her father means to sell her, Julia starts having relationships with the men who attempt to court her, in order to find a man who loves her enough to elope with her. Eventually she attracts the attention of Alejandro Gomez, a mysterious self-made man who has just moved into the area. In return for paying off her father’s debts, he asks for a meeting with Julia, who is so taken with him that she immediately accepts his proposal of marriage. Thus, things are happy for a time, this happiness only marred by Julia’s uncertainty about Alejandro: does he truly love her or did he just want a trophy wife?
This didn’t end the way that I thought it would. After certain hints, Alejandro starts to take on these ruthless, Bluebeard-style qualities, based on the little of his life that the reader can gather, but he doesn’t really seem to realise the potential of such qualities. It’s weird. I’m happy that I wasn’t able to predict how the plot would end, but at the same time it’s left me in a strange position of being unable to describe just what it was that I read. On reflection, I guess that overall I liked the portrayal of the marital relations of someone who is desperate for proof of their spouse’s love, potentially at the cost of her marriage or sanity.
This is another quick read that I would be happy to recommend, should you come across a copy of Three Exemplary Novels. I’d certainly be willing to read other works of Unamuno’s, if anyone has read anything of his that they would recommend. 3.5/5
Next review: Windfall by Penny Vincenzi