The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic
By Nick Joaquin
Recently, I was walking inside my favorite bookstore when The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic beckoned me close. Despite the shiny front cover–it didn’t have that premium texture, a woman holding a lit candle stick made me curious: Why is there a reflection of her in front of a window; as if, it’s a mirror and why is there a ghastly being behind her?
I looked at the back cover. Realizing that I overlooked the title, I glanced again at the front cover: the words ‘Tropical Gothic’ made me thoughtful for a moment. Surprisingly, the mysterious cover and the title enticed me. I am fond of haunted dilapidated castles, alluring vampires, mysterious passages, and creepy ritual books or codices; and so, these obscurities fascinated me.
This book is a collection of eleven stories that are set amid the bombed-out ruins of Manila after the world war two. As I have quite read a few fiction novels since I started writing book reviews, I was amazed how this one won’t let me stop flipping its pages. It just really rose my curiosity and made me go through from one chapter to the next.
One of the chapters that caught my interest is the “Three Generations.” Definitely, you might agree that love really does come in mysterious ways, but what happens when true love comes later in life? Monzon struggled to keep his father, who’s paralyzed and ill, from seeing the young woman that he has been howling for every night. At the end, I felt the lovers’ strong devotion to each other.
In terms of the style, Nick Joaquin tends to write in a sinuous paragraph—like in The Legend of the Dying Wanton, yet I was still gripped by his masterful story-telling. Unlike other novels, this one is an easy read, and each tales offers a unique treat and twist that leave you pensive for a moment.
I highly recommend this book for those book lovers who are looking for serious stories without losing their entertaining elements. To read this anthology is to experience the convergence of different literature from different cultures jammed-packed in each page. The Woman Who Had Two Navels and Tales of the Tropical Gothic has a promised of love, kindness, myths, and surreal experience. Once you open this book, you won’t put the book down.
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