Book Reviews

You Shall Leave Your Land by Renato Cisneros, Translated by Fionn Petch

What Da Cover Says: Renato Cisneros’s great-great-grandmother Nicolasa bore seven children by her priest, raising them alone in nineteenth century Peru. More than a century later, Renato struggles to wring information about his origins out of recalcitrant relatives, whose foibles match the adventures and dalliances of their ancestors. As buried secrets are brought into the light and is bound up with key moments in the development of the Republic of Peru since it won independence.

What I Says: This was a very interesting book, I really liked the concept behind it, a journey into the author’s family history, not written as a typical memoir but as a novel. Just imagine being able to go back four generations and finding enough material to create a story of epic proportions, love, war, more love, poetry, world travel and many many secrets, too many secrets to count. Renato has merged his family’s history with his own story of trying to squeeze the information out of his still living relatives, it is some of these conversations that I found most intriguing: If you were to reveal to the world your family’s deepest darkest secrets how will the family take it and should you in fact do it?

Renato’s history is tightly woven with the development of modern day Peru, his ancestors haven’t been scared to stand up for their beliefs, especially his Grandfather, who battled against dictators and became a very busy ambassador and still had time to create his own family secrets of epic proportions. Throughout each generation it is the women who stand out for me, the focus is on the paternal line but it is the grandmothers that I ended up adoring, the craziness they had to put up with and standing up so proud, would have you cheering them on. I didn’t know much about Peru’s past but by experiencing Cisneros’s past I have gained a lot more knowledge.

There was one almost throw-away comment in this book that has stuck with me, Renato mentions that family history should be taught at school, imagine how cool that be, finding out about your ancestors and seeing who had the darkest past! This would have been so much more fun than drama or recorder lessons (my worst lessons at school).

I couldn’t fault the translation, not only did the novel flow well but the bits of poetry that were included worked well.

I have really enjoyed this book, a great way to share this piece of history with the world.

Many thanks to Charco Press for sending me this copy to review, you can grab yourself a copy from HERE:


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