By Douglas Carlton Abrams
The book begins promisingly, with the meta joke, "Many, I am sure, will try to turn my life into a morality play after I am dead." For whether Don Juan truly existed as a Spanish nobleman or not, he is commonly known due to plays, books, poems, and movies. Of course, the book shortly after offers a preview of its greatest downfall, when Don Juan seduces the Widow Elvira:
I sipped the moist nectar of her mouth as she opened her petals to me. Our mouths fused together, her thirst palpable and her breath short. With out tonges and lips, we drank from each other a cordial as sweet as honey.
Yes, it's oftentimes that purple. Now, I was expecting a little purple in a book about one of the world's most famous lovers. It just wouldn't be right without it. However, Abrams often ventures to the point of just plain silly. (In the glossary included in the notes, just look at the definitions for Supreme Pleasure and Ultimate Skill. Even the author is a bit confunded by the word choice.) This dovetails in with the other fault, which is how Abrams addresses Don Juan's spirituality.
Don Juan believes in a 'heresy,' that laying with a woman, even outside of marriage, is a way of worshipping God. It's an interesting point of view and Abrams uses Juan to make some good points, it all seems a bit false coming from a man who only physically loves his lovers.
These things detract from an otherwise excellent story. On the romance side, Don Juan finally becomes emotionally connected to a woman, but one with whom he cannot have a physical relationship due to his loyalty to her fiance. On the historical side, Don Juan's practicing heresy during the Inquisition.
Abrams presents the Inquisition in its full hideousness, torturing the innocent to death as well as the guilty. The text also speaks of those men who would denounce people to this fate for their own gain. Human history is full of dark and shameful things, which most certainly fits the Inquisition. It was a dangerous time, and Abrams uses it well. Don Juan had far more to fear than an enraged husband.
Back to the romance side, the circumstances surrounding Dona Ana and Don Juan's relationship are more interesting than the woman herself. I liked her at her first introduction, but after that she seemed somewhat bland. It's realistic for a high born woman of the time to not be able to do much about her fate, but it left the novel with a hero far more dynamic than the heroine. Still, she did well enough as the love interest.
I wanted to love THE LOST DIARY OF DON JUAN at many points, but I just couldn't. There's certainly a good story there, but it would be better if the language were a little less flowery. Find out more at Abrams' website, MySpace, or book site. THE LOST DIARY OF DON JUAN is now available in paperback.
I received my review copy through Pump Up Your Book Promotion.