Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo: A Novel by F. G. Haghenbeck

When several notebooks were recently discovered among Frida Kahlo’s belongings at her home in Coyoacán, Mexico City, acclaimed Mexican novelist F. G. Haghenbeck was inspired to write this beautifully wrought fictional account of her life. Haghenbeck imagines that, after Frida nearly died when a streetcar’s iron handrail pierced her abdomen during a traffic accident, she received one of the notebooks as a gift from her lover Tina Modotti. Frida called the notebook “The Hierba Santa Book” (The Sacred Herbs Book) and filled it with memories, ideas, and recipes. Haghenbeck takes readers on a magical ride through Frida’s passionate life: her long and tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera, the development of her art, her complex personality, her hunger for experience, and her ardent feminism. This stunning narrative also details her remarkable relationships with Georgia O’Keeffe, Leon Trotsky, Nelson Rockefeller, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Henry Miller, and Salvador Dalí. Combining rich, luscious prose with recipes from “The Hierba Santa Book,” Haghenbeck tells the extraordinary story of a woman whose life was as stunning a creation as her art.
I became interested in Frida Kahlo when I was first introduced to Diego Rivera in an Art History class. I admit, I did not care for Diego's murals as much as I did Frida's honesty. I didn't understand why we didn't go more into Frida as we did Diego. To this day I still do not. I think she was actually the better painter of the two. Her work which has a surreal quality to it, often shows her pain in which she was plagued all of her life.

This book did remind me about the movie made of her life, Frida. So, you know that it kept close to her biography. What it also contained is some recipes. All delicious and tied to the chapter. You not only get authentic Mexican food, but a couple of Italian dishes as well. I can say, I would love to try some of these dishes... now I just need to find someone to cook! Trust me, Frida would throw me out of the kitchen and laugh at my feeble attempts at food. :)

I have to admit, I was hoping for a bit more of her philosophy. She was a woman of contradiction and I was wanting to see this within her head as we traveled with Frida in life. Although we do get a bit of philosophy, we do not go very deep. It skims on the surface of someone who dealt with death, pain, and betrayal on a constant basis and yet still found a zest for life. Still, I found the imagery within interesting and taken from her paintings.

I give this book 3 stars. If you are curious about her this is an interesting work of fiction about her life. I also think that it is worth the recipes within. I showed it to my mom and she just kept saying that everything looked so good. Just don't read it on an empty stomach. :)
  I received this ARC from Atria and no compensation for my review was given.


  1. Alas not a book for me. The cover is fascinating though.

  2. I think Frida would definitely throw me out of her kitchen as well, I fail at cooking. I can do pasta and salad and that's really it aside from heating things up in the oven. It's a good thing the husband has developed a liking for cooking! Though I think it was more out of necessity than an actually desire to learn to cook:)

  3. Oh I didn't know anything about this book but the cover is interesting. I don't think it could be for me but it sounds interesting.

  4. Eh, perhaps not, but at least I read a review of it ;)

  5. Frida and he unibrow....I did see the movie with Penelope Cruz and it was very interesting. I do like her work and think she was a fascinating lady. I know good Mexican food it the thing I miss living in Portland vs. Phoenix. Have a great day girl!

  6. I don't think I know this duo. Hmm, I think I should though. Thanks for the thoughts. :)

  7. I really enjoyed Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna which also touches on Frida's life and I am looking forward to reading this book.


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