A Week in October

A Week in October

4.5 2
by Elizabeth Subercaseaux

A mystery novel where the heart is the culprit and the reader is the detective sleuthing for two truths—the story’s and their own

A Week in October is a thriller for those of us who usually prefer a good love story that you just can’t put down. In other words it is a thriller-of-the-heart, where the spirit of

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A mystery novel where the heart is the culprit and the reader is the detective sleuthing for two truths—the story’s and their own

A Week in October is a thriller for those of us who usually prefer a good love story that you just can’t put down. In other words it is a thriller-of-the-heart, where the spirit of "dangerous liaisons" is set against the all too familiar and difficult background of breast cancer. The beautiful wife of a successful Chilean architect courageously confronts her illness, mastectomy, and treatment while recording her thoughts and experiences in her journal. What develops is a thinly veiled version of her own life, her disappoint with their cold marriage, her reminiscences of childhood, and the death that seems to surround her. Her husband discovers the notebook and is stunned: How does she know that he had a mistress all these years? Is he really such a fatuous bore? Could it be true that his sick wife had a passionate love affair with one of his colleagues, right under his nose? Is this just a fictional story—he asks himself, turning the pages—or his wife’s very personal diary as she awaits death?

A bestselling Latin American author, A Week in October is Elizabeth Subercaseaux’s first novel to be translated into English. This extraordinary tale about erotic tension, deception, resilience, and death keeps us in suspense, between laughter and tears, until the unexpected, haunting ending that ponders the mysteries of a woman's heart, where truth is a lie and a lie is truth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Filled with delicious ironies and feminist wit.”
Magill Book Reviews

“An intelligent novel of great suspense in which love, death, fiction, and reality all intersect in the telling of its story.” –Isabel Allende
Publishers Weekly

Chilean author Subercaseaux's intense and engrossing novel (the first one to be translated into English) delves deeply into the troubled psyche and marriage of a woman dying of cancer. In the last months of her life, 46-year-old Clara Griffin, the reserved, childless, well-to-do wife of architect Clemente Balmaceda, begins a fictionalized journal that her husband will secretly read and agonize over. In alternating chapters, Subercaseaux (the great-great-granddaughter of composer Robert Schumann) sets up a coiled tension between what Clara has written, an intimate roman à clef about her coming death and lack of passion for her husband, and her husband's reaction. Clemente is by turns bewildered by her "embellishments" and shocked by her revelations. The crux of Clara's grief stems from Clemente's longstanding affair with another woman, which Clara, as Clemente learns from her notebook, has endured in silence for years. A method of instilling desire, exacting vengeance or simply finding happiness, Clara's notebook digs into the slippery, treacherous nature of love, deception, truth, guilt and loyalty. (Aug.)

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Library Journal

Diagnosed with a fatal illness, Clara Griffin begins to keep a journal or write a novel. Which is it? Her husband, Clemente, a successful architect, discovers the notebook and reads it avidly. Is it all true, or is it made up? Does she really think him a smug, complacent bore? How did she find out he had a mistress? Did she really have a passionate affair in the midst of her illness? Did she know he was reading the notebook? This extraordinary novel weaves mystery with suffering, erotic tension, and human resilience. Chilean journalist and fiction writer Subercaseaux has published prolifically, but this is her first novel to be translated into English. One hopes that more will soon follow. Highly recommended.
—Mary Margaret Benson

Kirkus Reviews
An intriguing novel that raises issues of truth-telling, domestic deception and metafictional subterfuge. Clara Griffin is in her mid-40s and dying of cancer. Her husband, Clemente, suggests that she keep a journal of her thoughts as a way of dealing with her impending death. The novel alternates between Clara's notebook and Clemente's reading of the entries; however, he discovers more than he wants to-sort of. The first entry recounts Clara's passionate tryst with her lover, Lionel, who dies of a heart attack after a strenuous sexual encounter with her. When Clemente reads the journal, he's convinced that Clara is using the jottings to make up a fantasy life because her current life is so painful . . . but he's not altogether persuaded that Clara is making things up. His first thought is bewilderment that Clara invented a lover "to whom she had the audacity to give the name of a real person," for Lionel is a business acquaintance of Clemente's. Clemente himself has for many years been having an affair with Eliana, an affair he smugly thought he'd kept hidden from his wife, but in her journal Clara makes clear both her knowledge of the affair and her contempt for her husband, whose life of boredom and routine has been a source of anguish for her. Clemente eventually becomes suspicious that Clara has planted the notebook specifically so he can find it, but he remains tormented by its contents and starts to feel "jealousy, impotence, and . . . rage." Is she toying with Clemente by fictionalizing events from her life? Or does she convey fundamental truths by disguising and manipulating their reality? Or is she indeed fantasizing a life to compensate for the diminishment of her own?Raisesmore questions than it answers, but Subercaseaux (Michelle, 2006, etc.) is able to keep the reader engaged through the depth and intensity of her characters. Agent: Anne Edelstein/Anne Edelstein Literary Agency

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Product Details

Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.63(h) x 0.78(d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Subercaseaux
Elizabeth Subercaseaux was born in Chile, the great-great-granddaughter of the German composer Robert Schumann. She is the best-selling author of ten books. Her nonfiction includes Michelle, a biography of the first woman to be elected president in Chile, and the amusing feminist manifesto, The Ten Things a Chilean Woman Should Never Do. Subercaseaux lives in Pennsylvania.

Marina Harss
Marina Harss translations include For Solo Violin (Per Vionlino Solo), a war memoir by Aldo Zargani, and stories in The Forbidden Stories of Marta Veneranda, by Sonia Rivera-Vald. Her translations have also appeared in Bomb, Brooklyn Rail, and Autadafe. She is a researcher at The New Yorker, and lives in New York City.
Also by this author: Conjugal Love, Stories from the City of God

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A Week in October 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Sulafi More than 1 year ago
I loved it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A stunning book that reveals the inner, senstitive, and secret side of a woman who while facing death plays a skillful psychological game on her husband. Through her notebook a woman reminds her husband of love they ones shared, of love that was misplaced in the midst of betrayal, ignorance, and ones selfishness. A week in October is a story of private revelations which can no longer be taken back or changed due to tragic illness. The realization of passing time has never been so vivid.