Even if she did not want to, if she did not persist, things might be out of order. She had her own reasonable expectation to die. It did not occur to her that she was putting herself in harm’s way.
(from Gracianna, page 214)
Gracianna is a novel by Trini Amador based on his great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga, a Basque woman who left her home in the Pyrenees at age 18 to work in Paris and earn enough money to live out her dream of moving to America. Amador found a loaded German Luger in his great-grandmother’s home when he was four and felt compelled to tell her story.
Gracianna is tough as nails, like most Basque women. Being raised by her formidable grandmother after her mother died in childbirth, Gracianna was taught to be meticulous, a perfectionist, especially when it comes to cleaning. This (and her unique good looks, particularly her snow white hair) serves her well when she gets a job waitressing and cleaning at a bar café in Paris — and when she joins the Resistance after the Nazis take over the city during World War II.
Accompanied by Juan, the Basque shepherd who has loved her since they were kids, Gracianna takes on an important and dangerous job for the Resistance — a job that forces her to bury her feelings. She does this job precisely and mechanically until she meets her match in a Nazi colonel, who has the power to save her impetuous younger sister from certain death in a concentration camp. Amador takes readers to the Pyrenees and describes the strong and resilient Basque people, their history, and their ties to the land. He also plunges readers into the tense atmosphere of Nazi-occupied Paris and the heartbreaking and bleak landscape of Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Gracianna was an interesting person, but the tell-not-show writing style for much of the book kept me from connecting with her. I knew what kind of person Gracianna was because Amador told me, and I admired her, but the impersonal narrative and the lack of rich description kept her at arm’s length. Even so, I completely understood Gracianna’s decision to fight for her sister and not give up hope. I’m close to my younger sister, and I’d like to think I would’ve done the same thing had I been in Gracianna’s shoes. Gracianna and Constance’s stories were what kept me reading, although I wish the Author’s Note at the end would have gone into more detail about what was fact and what was fiction.
Amador comes from a line of strong women, and he does a good job emphasizing the message he learned from his great-grandmother about being thankful. Gracianna is a novel about resisting when evil knocks at your door, fighting for the people you love, and moving forward in order to accomplish your dreams. Amador has every reason to be proud of his great-grandmother and to celebrate her tenacity and survival.
Thanks to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for having me on the Gracianna tour. To follow the tour, click here.
Disclosure: I received Gracianna from the author for review.
© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.