Comprised of letters written over the course of thirty years, it describes in vivid, painterly detail the remarkable courage and limitless imagination of a young girl growing up with nothing.
Emma was an illegitimate child, raised in a windowless room in Bogota with no water or toilet and only ingenuity to keep her and her sister alive. Abandoned by their mother, she and her sister moved to a convent housing 150 orphan girls, where they washed pots, ironed and mended laundry, scrubbed floors, cleaned bathrooms, and sewed garments and decorative cloths for church.
Illiterate and knowing nothing of the outside world, Emma escaped at age nineteen, eventually coming to have a career as an artist and to befriend the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
Far from self-pitying, the portrait that emerges from this clear-eyed account inspires awe at the stunning early life of a gifted writer whose talent remained hidden for far too long.
'A life described with such quirky grace and raw honesty - both intimate and epic' - The Observer
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
Number of pages: 192
Weight: 320 g
Dimensions: 223 x 137 x 23 mm
Unadulteratedly good, interesting and important. Emma's letters remind me what reading and writing are for -- LOUISA YOUNG
What an astonishing book - I read it in a single gulp. Emma Reyes had a childhood of staggering deprivation but her humour and resilience shine through, and suddenly we have a modern classic -- DEBORAH MOGGACH
A jewel of a book. Emma is a mesmerising storyteller and her letters had me completely gripped from beginning to end -- NINA STIBBE
As poetic as it is horrific. The young Emma injects magic into the realism and vice versa - not for nothing is Reyes a compatriot of Marquez . . . an act of freedom both intimate and epic -- Ed Vuilliamy * OBSERVER *
Startling and astringently poetic . . . It's not hard to see what Marquez admired in [Reyes'] writing . . . she has a similar gift for relating extraordinary moments with a straight face, making them seem even more otherworldly. The most sophisticated aspect of this book is just how meticulously Reyes maintains the perspective of a child throughout . . . moving . . . potent and, against all odds, even lovely * THE NEW YORK TIMES *
A mesmerising account full of the most striking details. Reading her words pitches the reader head first into a wondrous, terrifying world -- Eithne Farry * SUNDAY EXPRESS *
The memoir, in letters, of the Colombian artist Emma Reyes, takes you from her birth in a Bogota slum to the artistic circles of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. It's totally transporting -- Sam Baker * THE POOL *
An incredible biography by any measure, but the book's most startling element is Reyes's clear-sighted, unsentimental remembrance of her difficult childhood * PARIS REVIEW *
Reading the letters collected in this striking memoir, it is hard not to keep returning to the fact that their author was completely illiterate until her late teens...So eloquently does Reyes depict herself as a flawed witness to her own life that what emerges, paradoxically, is the portrait of a brilliantly assured observer and writer. It is Reyes's natural talent, even more than her story, that makes The Book of Emma Reyes remarkable * TLS *
Some works of art feel more unlikely, more miraculous than others, and Emma Reyes's remarkable epistolary memoir is one of them. I don't think I've read many books of such power and grace, or that pack such an emotional wallop in so short a space. The very fact that this book exists is extraordinary. Everything about it . . . is astonishing -- DANIEL ALARCON, from the Introduction