The Skin of the Sky

The Skin of the Sky

by Elena Poniatowska

View All Available Formats & Editions

The Skin of the Sky is the story of Lorenzo de Tena, a Mexican astronomer born in the 1930s. The illegitimate son of a wealthy Mexico City businessman and a poor, but intelligent, peasant woman, Lorenzo is introduced to science (pasteurization and the wonders of flight) by his mother, beginning his lifelong passion.

When his mother dies, Lorenzo and his

…  See more details below


The Skin of the Sky is the story of Lorenzo de Tena, a Mexican astronomer born in the 1930s. The illegitimate son of a wealthy Mexico City businessman and a poor, but intelligent, peasant woman, Lorenzo is introduced to science (pasteurization and the wonders of flight) by his mother, beginning his lifelong passion.

When his mother dies, Lorenzo and his siblings are taken to live with their father. The children have difficulty adjusting to a life of wealth and privilege, but Lorenzo devotes all his attentions to astronomy. He eventually goes to Harvard to complete his studies and returns to Mexico, determined to elevate Mexico's scientific rankings.

"Lorenzo's calling enables [Elena] Poniatowska not only to write of the heavens with mythic awe and ravishing lyricism but also to ponder the conundrums of space and time, our precarious place in the universe, and the great divide between Mexico's educated elite and countless illiterate poor. . . . Ultimately, Poniatowska's capacious tale of one inspired but lonely man's heroic perseverance dramatizes the divide between the First and Third Worlds and the anguish of those caught in between."—Booklist

"When I read Elena Poniatowska, I'm reminded why she's my hero, why I write, what kind of writer I aspire to be. She's not only an exquisite writer, she's an extraordinary human being. It's this humanity that makes her writing soar."—Sandra Cisneros

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A gifted Mexican astronomer faces conflicting loyalties in Poniatowska's latest novel (after Here's to You, Jesusa!). Lorenzo de Tena is introduced as a boy living an idyllic life on a farm outside Mexico City with his mother, Florencia, and four siblings. Lorenzo's father is a "well-ironed dandy who showed up on Sundays," but Florencia is a living textbook, teaching the children about pasteurization and the Wright Brothers and encouraging in Lorenzo a lifelong passion for the stars. Lorenzo, a loner, finds the sky his greatest solace, which Poniatowska never lets the reader forget. The stars are the first of Lorenzo's intense loyalties, which leads him to Harvard; loyalty to his mentor, Luis Enrique Erro, causes him to return to Mexico. But the most defining and complicated loyalty is to Mexico itself, and Lorenzo's belief that Mexican scientific advancement will bring the country to an equal standing with America. For this he sacrifices his family, his friends, his personal life. And for this, Poniatowska sacrifices some of the flow of the book, allowing it to get bogged down in names, places and scientific developments. The novel is challenging, not only because it offers an unforgiving protagonist-ambitious, solitary and sometimes alienating to the reader-but also because it almost exceeds the grasp of its writer. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Winner of the 2001 Alfaguara Prize (a prestigious Spanish-language literary award), Poniatowska's latest novel follows Mexican astronomer Lorenzo de Tena through the 20th century. As a child, Lorenzo lives an idyllic but poor life with his siblings in the country until his mother dies. Life radically changes when the children move to Mexico City to live with their father and aunt: Lorenzo's intellectual prowess becomes evident, and he pursues the study of astronomy. A fascinating but not necessarily likable character, Lorenzo is scientifically brilliant but personally tormented. Poniatowska, well known for her social commentary, renders with a sure hand Lorenzo's personal and professional struggles against Mexico's own growing pains. Thought-provoking and challenging, this novel is highly recommended for public and academic libraries. Christina Mart nez, Univ. of Colorado at Colorado Springs Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A poor young man grows up to be an eminent astronomer. Lorenzo de Tena and his siblings are the offspring of an affair between a rich urbanite and a peasant, but, unlike the others, Lorenzo doggedly follows his passion for the stars. Poniatowska (Here's to You, Jesusa, 2001, etc.) follows his doings among a group of friends obsessed with sex and making money; a brother who turns into a criminal and pipe-dreamer; and a sister whose pregnancies land her in a boarding house-cum-brothel. When Lorenzo's native brilliance is recognized, Mexico's foremost astronomer takes him under his wing and he's sent to Harvard, where he ends up in an affair with the brilliant humanist Lisa and befriends other young men who share his passion for the stars. His emotional obligations to Mexico and his mentor pull him back, but Lisa's refusal to go along embitters him. In Mexico, the elder astronomer begins to act irrationally, and soon Lorenzo takes over the country's principal observatory. As he becomes more prominent and authoritarian, he decries the lack of support for Mexican science even as he rises in stature, making discovery after discovery and rising in international renown. Gradually, he turns curmudgeonly, and, other than astronomy, only the presence of the young woman Fausta, who works at the observatory, can intrigue him. He treats his acolytes mercurially and with disdain. A respected student whom he sends to the California Institute of Technology commits suicide. Then Lorenzo rapes Fausta, who disappears forever. Working with such intellectual characters, Poniatowska is able to demonstrate her formidable erudition, but it overwhelms the slight narrative, an attempt to portray 60 years of a man'spersonal and professional development in a bit over 300 pages. The pace rushes ahead, interesting characters drop away, and the reader too seldom really cares what happens. A great concept, but it reads like Poniatowska gave up in the middle of the second draft.

Read More

Product Details

University of New Mexico Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Elena Poniatowska is the award-winning author of over fifty books. Born in France to a Mexican citizen of French ancestry, she now lives in Mexico City. In 2004, she was honored with the Legion de Honor del Gobierno de Francia. Poniatowska has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Emeritus Fellowship from Mexico's National Council of Culture and Arts. In 1979, she became the first woman to win the Mexican National Award for Journalism.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >