A Working Woman (Spain)
A Working Woman by Elvira Navarro, translated by Christina MacSweeney
One of the more fascinating things about this project is the challenge of finding authors and books that have been translated into English. I know I’m going to have trouble finding books for some African countries and maybe some in Asia, but I never expected to have such a hard time finding a woman author from Spain.
My library search was no help. There were actually two books written by Rosa Montero, but both were original copies written in Spanish. Online searches for female Spanish authors almost always resulted in women writers who speak Spanish - mostly from Mexico or South American countries.
I finally came across this list of the 10 best contemporary writers from Spain and was able to track down A Working Woman, written by Elvira Navarro. You’ll notice the list is 70% men (not knocking them - some of my favorite books have been written by Carlos Ruiz Zafón), but it didn’t give me that much to go on. A Working Woman was published in 2014 and translated into English in 2017 by Christina MacSweeney (the same translator of the young Mexican author who I read for Mexico). I am really enjoying finding young writers and it’s been something I’ve gravitated to while researching books for my list.
This book starts with a 40-page monologue and I kept wondering what I had gotten myself into. The story is told by one roommate (Susanna) to another (Elisa) and it’s a wild ride of sexual fantasy and mental illness.
After that section, the book turns to Elisa as the narrator. She’s a once-published author struggling with her own sense of identity as an artist, woman, and someone who has found herself in a situation she didn’t intend.
Elisa sometimes despises Susanna, occasionally celebrates her, but more often, she cannot find her own way through work, her mind, and a changing city.
This is a story of two women struggling to find their identities (in very different ways) in a world that seems to force things on them. They both uncover they have lost their sense of self while letting others take control. A little twist at the end of the book helps tie the first 40-pages to the story - a welcomed gift from my perspective.