18 November 2015

Book Review: Kiss of the Spider Woman by Manuel Puig

It seems that I have been reading novels about incarcerated people lately. This is the third book I am reading with this theme, but unlike the previous two novels I have read, this book is less about the experiences of the people that are incarcerated, but more about the social dynamics of two people who happen to be incarcerated. In this case, we find ourselves in the cell of Valentin and Molina, two men imprisoned in Argentina. Valentin is imprisoned because he is a member of an anti-government movement who wants to destabilize the ruling body, while Molina is imprisoned because of some indecent thing he did with a minor.

The novel is not written in the traditional manner. Most of the narrative is composed of the dialogue between Valentin and Molina, and so there is no omniscient narrator that provides background information about these two people. Instead, it slowly gets revealed to the reader.

For example, it slowly gets revealed that Molina is actually being used by the prison authorities to fish information out of Valentin. The authorities want to know where the rest of Valentin's organization is, and therefore they have made Molina into a mole with the hopes of fishing this information out of Valentin.

I also like the conflicting constraints here. Molina wants to get out of prison, but in the meantime, Molina and Valentin become lovers, and this means that if he gets out of prison, then Molina and Valentin will have to be apart. Thus Molina now have second thoughts on whether he wants to be out of prison or not.

I think this book is brilliant in that it shows the complexity of human nature in different levels. It ends tragically, but I won't tell how. At times it was comedic, at times it was sad. Definitely one of the best prison novels I have read in a while.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

See my other book reviews here.

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