Book Report: Madwomen

Published January 24, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros


Surprising myself, I’ve already finished the next book on my Read Harder list. [And it is to be noted that I wrote 95% of this review on campus yesterday afternoon.]  Of course, it was for #23 “Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love,” so maybe that’s not quite so surprising.  Or rather, it helped that the book of poetry I picked turned out to be extremely short.


Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) was a Chilean poet who achieved both national and international renown, was the first Latin American to be named a Nobel laureate in literature (in 1954) and helped found UNICEF.  To be honest, I only skimmed the introduction, but it looks like she led a very eventful and tumultuous life.  (A full biography would probably be very interesting.  A summary in an introduction to a book usually tends to leave out so much that it becomes confusing.)

In any case, Madwomen:  The Locas Mujeres Poems of Gabriela Mistral seems longer than it is (at least in this edition, anyway), because it prints the original Spanish and the English translation on facing pages.  Since I don’t speak Spanish (though I did take a couple of semesters in it before my trip to Peru in 2008), I obviously only read the English translation.  (Which is, after all, what the challenge is about, let’s not forget.)

I can’t say that I understood the literal meaning of every single poem, but even when I wasn’t sure precisely what she was describing, the emotional tone was always clear.  Frequently mournful, sometimes angry, but always too lucid to be truly “mad,” and yet the intensity of the emotions on display did mean that the people of Mistral’s era (particularly the people of her childhood) would likely have labelled those women as insane.

The poems that most grabbed my attention, naturally, were the four poems in the voice of female characters from Greek myths.  (Because whether or not I’m currently active in blogging about it, I will always be me, and my heart lies in the bosom of Greek mythology.)  These were, in order, “Antigone,” “Electra,” “Clytemnestra” and “Cassandra.”  The last two were definitely my favorites in the whole collection, no question.  In “Clytemnestra,” Mistral brought out strongly the essence of Clytemnestra’s despair over the loss of Iphigenia, and how that has brought out her intense hatred of Agamemnon.  Interestingly, it also proved that one of Electra’s conclusions about her mother was wrong.  I liked that; it added an extra layer of tragedy to the whole affair.  (Why is it that I’m so fond of tragedy in the Trojan War cycle, when I hate unhappy endings so much?  Is it some kind of bizarre schadenfreude?  But I like most of the characters in the cycle…)  “Cassandra” represented an enormous departure from any other portrayal of the character I’ve seen before.  It was entirely within her head, so there’s no indication in the poem about how/why she appears mad to those around her, which is already a bit of a departure from the usual.  But the real change was in…nope, actually, I’m not going to tell you.  You should read it for yourself to find out how Mistral’s Cassandra is different from everyone else’s.  (It should be available at most university libraries.  Even if you’re not a student, they’d surely let you read one three and a bit page poem.)

Anyway, while I was on campus yesterday, I checked out three books from the library that are going to be the next three in my challenge.  I felt the need to check them out all at once because I thought I might be dropping my class, but it turns out I’m going to stick with it after all, so I didn’t really need to check them out all at once.  (Except for the fact the class only meets on campus once a month, so it’s more convenient to get them all now, y’know?  That way I can return them all at once next month.)  Two of them are fiction, and hopefully will go pretty fast, though the one I’ve started (#4) is a bit odd in narrative style, which might slow me down a bit.  I’m thinking the other fiction book (#5) will go faster, even though it’s longer.   The other’s non-fiction (#3), so I have no idea if it’ll be fast or slow.  Hopefully fast, because I have my choices for #2, #21 and #19 on their way now.  And possibly#14, too…not sure, ‘cause it’s also from the micropress, and they didn’t really put up any, you know, plot synopsis.  But they were donating the proceeds to the ACLU, and what little they did put up sounded interesting, so I picked it up.  If it counts for the challenge, great, and if it doesn’t, I’m sure it’ll still be worth my time and money.)

4 comments on “Book Report: Madwomen

  • hey. Loved reading your review. I’m currently working on Mistral’s poems. Do you think that in her poem Cassandra, Mistral has shown her to be in love with Agamemnon? or do you think she’s being sarcastic when she implies that?


    • I’m glad you liked the review, but I’m afraid I can’t really answer your questions: this post is three years old, and for two of the intervening years I was working on my Master’s Degree, frequently having to read between 500 and 1000 pages in a week, so pretty much everything from the entire period is a blur in my mind now. I have no memory of these poems at all, I’m sorry to say.


  • Comments are closed.

    Vocaloid Tarot

    Vocaloid, UTAU and Tarot; individually or all-in-one

    Matthew Meyer

    the yokai guy

    Arwen's Butterflies and Things

    My BJD creation blog. Here's where my sewing creations and projects are showcased. Some outfits are for sale. Please use the tags & catagories to navigate this blog. I love comments and reviews!

    History From Below

    Musings on Daily Life in the Ancient and Early Medieval Mediterranean By Sarah E. Bond

    The Bloggess

    Like Mother Teresa, only better.

    My Tiny Joy

    Where little things matter!

    Klein's Other Toys

    Comics, Funko Pops and Anime figures oh my!



    Creating Herstory

    Celebrating the women who create history

    Kicky Resin

    BJDs et al

    Lala Land


    A'Cloth the World

    Where Textiles, Fashion, Culture, Communication and Art Come Together.


    Occasionally my brain spurts out ideas and this is where I put them

    The Social Historian

    Adventures in the world of history


    Erik Kwakkel blogging about medieval manuscripts

    Sara Letourneau

    Poet. Freelance editor and writing coach. SFF enthusiast.

    Zounds, Alack, and By My Troth

    A tragical-comical-historical-pastoral webcomic by Ben Sawyer

    Project Doll House

    never too old to play with dolls

    knotted things

    All about the things that I'm all about.

    Eclectic Alli

    A bit of this, a bit of that, the meandering thoughts of a dreamer.

    Omocha Crush

    Secret Confessions of a Toy Addict


    Fantasy & Science-Fiction romance Writer


    Jacqui Murray's

    Onomastics Outside the Box

    Names beyond the Top 100, from many nations and eras

    Hannah Reads Books

    This is an archival site for old posts. Visit for art, puppetry, and links to any current media commentary.

    Ariel Hudnall

    the writings, musings, and photography of a dream smith

    Taking a Walk Through History

    Walking back in time to discover the origins of every historical route on earth



    Pullips and Junk

    We're all mad about Pullips here!


    Handmade miniatures

    Dutch Fashion Doll World

    A Dutch Barbie collector in Holland

    Confessions of a Doll Collectors Daughter

    Reviews and News From the Doll World

    It's a Britta Bottle!

    Small Stories of a Twenty-Something Adventuring Through Life


    It's all small stuff.

    The Photographicalist

    Preserving the photographical perspective

    The Daily Post

    The Art and Craft of Blogging

    We're All Mad Here!

    <---This Way | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . | That Way--->

    The Blog

    The latest news on and the WordPress community.

    %d bloggers like this: