Cervantes Street by Jaime Manrique is a historical-fiction novel about Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s journey to write Don Quixote. The book is peppered with literary references to Cervantes’ works as well as works of the time, while I didn’t get many I did enjoy learning about them.
After the huge success of Don Quixote, a second part not written by Cervantes appears. The book is written by someone who uses the nom de plume Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda and prompts Cervantes to write his own “Book II”.
Who is Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda and why did he write the mysterious novel? To find out the reader goes on a journey with Cervantes, from his escapes after killing a man (who insulted his Jewish ancestry), to his studies in Madrid, his passion of poetry, life in Rome and fighting in the battle of Lepanto. We trudge through years of slavery in Algiers (the story being told as a side tale in Don Quixote) as well as through his life back in Spain, where the famous author loves, loses and finally sits down to write his masterpiece.
As followers of my blog know, I am a big fan of Don Quixote, probably more to the nostalgia associated with the story from my childhood than anything to do with the classic story. However, when I did read the full length novel (both parts) I understood why the book has become such a literary classic.
Unfortunately, many readers get daunted by the sheer size of Don Quixote. The stories in the classic tale need knowledge of the time’s pop-culture in order to fully enjoy the reading experience. However, the same could be said for Shakespeare and several other authors from the far and not-so-far past.
For those readers who are overwhelmed by the size of the classic book, Cervantes Street by Jaime Manrique is the perfect introduction. The novel is exciting, paced well, interesting and with a literary mystery to boot. The “mystery” is quite easy to figure out, but it’s the way we get to the end which makes the journey worth taking.