The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera
Published by: Atria Books
Published on: July 8, 2014
Page Count: 272 pages
My Reading Format: ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley
Available Formats: Paperback and Kindle e-book
Can you think of a fictional character who is so uptight you read about them wishing they would just lighten up, making their own life and the lives of the character around them easier? A few such characters come to mind for me like that: Aunt Cordelia in Up a Road Slowly, Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music and Mrs. Gulch in The Wizard of Oz. But I can't think of any uptight character I liked so much right away as I do Miss Prudencia Prim. The epitome of a Type A personality, the heroine in The Awakening of Miss Prim is punctual, dependable, disapproving, rigid and not much fun. She's seeking new scenery and a change in her life. Though overqualified for the position, she applies for a job with and is hired by a man to organize his in-home library, and moves to San Ireneo de Arnois, a small village in France, for several months to complete the job. This self-proclaimed "mistress of the art of delicacy" is ready to jump in with both feet and get her boss, the Man in the Wingchair, all squared away.
Prudencia believed herself to be capable and completely in control of the life she'd chosen for herself (one that includes no wiggle room). However, as Prudencia spends more time in San Ireneo de Arnois, she begins making friends with the children in the household and the townspeople. Many of those friends are women who have ideas about what constitutes a full and complete life for a woman, which at first differ from Prudencia's ideas on the subject. First off, every woman should be married (Prudencia disagrees of course, as she's got her life just how she wants it). Also, every woman should be given time to discover herself (Prudencia believes she already has), and villager Eugenia believes this should happen in Italy.
Things don't go as Prudencia plans. The exasperation she feels toward the Man in the Wingchair not surprisingly softens. She discovers her female friends know some secrets to life that she's previously missed. She is accepted by and learns from the experiences of her boss' mother, with whom she forms a close friendship.
I would have liked to know more about Prudencia's background and would have loved to see more development in her relationship with the children in the household. When she travels to Italy, we know she's become more self-aware by the end of the trip, but it's a transition we sense more than see the details of. Those things are small though in relation to how much I enjoyed the story.
Yes, I felt pretty sure I knew what was coming but that didn't take anything away from my enjoyment. It echoes of Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and Little Women, three of my favorite books. In short, I had fun reading this book, and I think you will too.
Four and a half out of five stars