Review: The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera


Title: The Awakening of Miss Prim

Author: Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera Translated by Sonia Soto

Published: Hachette June 2014

Status: Read from June 12 to 14, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

“Wanted: a feminine spirit quite undaunted by the world to work as a librarian for a gentleman and his books. Able to live with dogs and children. Preferably without work experience. Graduates and postgraduates need not apply.”

Miss Prudencia Prim, quite undaunted by her lack of experience with dogs and children, and in possession of a number of degrees, presents herself to the gentleman advertiser looking for someone to organise his extensive private library, secure in the knowledge that she is the right person for the job. It isn’t until Miss Prim begins work for the eccentric Man in the Wing Chair, and spends time in the unusual village of San Ireneo de Arnois, that she begins to have doubts, not only about the job, but also all she thought she knew of the world.

The Awakening of Miss Prim is a charming, contemporary tale with an old-worlde feel.

The setting is a small Spanish village named San Ireneo de Arnois, home to those who have chosen to eschew modern life and dedicate themselves to building a self sufficient, close knit society which values intellectual debate, old-fashioned values and community. For the independent Miss Prim, village life is a challenge. Though she agrees with its principles in theory, she finds the inclusiveness almost claustrophobic.

In The Man in the Wing Chair’s employ, Miss Prim finds herself struggling with the continual challenges to those things she has always held as certainties, such as her disbelief that a ten year old child could accurately paint Rublev’s icon from memory, to her disdain for the mystical tenets of religion. This is the awakening that the title of the book refers to, Miss Prim’s discovery that no one has all the answers, least of all her.

There is rather a lot of philosophical discourse, which will surely delight those who can recognise a Latin text by a single quote or enjoy obscure literary and cultural references. Usually I would dismiss this sort of thing as pretentious but in a village where the children visit the Tretyakov Gallery in Russia to study art and can quote Virgil’s Aenaid, it somehow doesn’t seem out of place.

Yet for all Miss Prim’s, and The Man in the Wing Chair’s knowledge and education there are things neither of them really understand, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. The low key not-quite romance is strongly reminiscent of Jane Austen’s Emma, a text referred to several times throughout the novel. Prim is of course Emma, too sure of herself and her world view, and The Man in the Winged Chair, the wise yet emotionally unavailable Mr Darcy.

Though I didn’t find The Awakening of Miss Prim to be a particularly easy or fast read, it has a undeniable grace and charm. I’d recommend it to lovers of literary classics, philosophy and learning.

Available to purchase from

Hachette I boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Bookworld I via Booko

Amazon AU I Amazon US


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. persephonenich
    Jun 18, 2014 @ 16:53:33

    Sounds likes an unusual – and interesting – read. Thanks for sharing.



  2. Kimberly (@TurninThePages)
    Jun 24, 2014 @ 06:15:01

    This isn’t one I probably would have picked up before but I think I might give it a whirl this coming winter 🙂
    Kimberly @ Turning the Pages



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