Saturday, September 17, 2005

Casa Azul: An Encounter with Frida Kahlo by Laban Carrick Hill

The simultaneous stories of Frida Kahlo following her divorce to Diego Rivera, Maria and Victor Ortiz in their search of their mother in Mexico City, and the wresting match between El Corazon and El Diablo are told by Laban Carrick Hill in Casa Azul. Fourteen year-old Maria and her nine year-old brother Victor board a bus from their small village to go to Mexico City after the death of their grandmother. Maria seeks not only her mother but also the independance she was denied in her village. They meet Oswaldo, the accomplice of the wanted thief Oscar soon after arriving in Mexico City. Although Maria does not trust him, Maria and Victor enjoy adventures together and view Mexico City froma vantage point that few visitors ever see. Maria tells Victor of the matches of El Corazon and El Diablo, famed in Mexico when they are feeling down to keep him excited and entertained. However, this simple story turns out to dictate a lot to each of the characters in Casa Azul. Frida Kahlo's childhood home of Casa Azul is not only magical with her paintings talking and giving advice, but also caring with Fuland and Chico, her monkey and cat. Their animated conversations keep the reader entertained. This episode of art history gives the reader, whether an art lover or not, an intimate look at a famous artist often put in the backgound because of her famous husband Diago Rivera. The satisfying ending makes the novel well worth reading.

Laban Carrick Hill does an excellent job of personifying the name, Frida Kahlo, that students often read in textbooks. The parallel stories especially add to the drama because the reader is constantly wondering about what is happening to the other characters until they finally all meet each other. Casa Azul is a page turner not only because of the depth into which each story is told but more so because of the switching view points. Similar to historical fiction telling the stories of figures of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, Hill's art fiction draws the reader into the history a lot more than a textbook would and definitely gives a more personable account of a famous person. I doubt that Casa Azul will become a best seller but it is definitely worth reading whether one knows anything about Frida Kahlo or not. I wish the author would have included more historical facts about the Mexican Revolution istead of just hinting at it.

Flamingnet Reviewer Age: 17

Flamingnet Reviewer City, State and Country: Kansas City, MO USA