Gonzalez, Béa 1962–
Gonzalez, Béa 1962–
Born December 28, 1962, in Vigo, Galicia, Spain; immigrated to Canada; married; children: two. Ethnicity: Spanish. Education: Kings College, London, M.A.
Home—Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Author, artist, tour guide, lecturer.
Ontario Great Books Council (founding member).
The Bitter Taste of Time (novel), HarperCollins (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998, hardcover edition, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2008.
The Mapmaker's Opera: A Novel, HarperCollins (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2005, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2007.
Born December 28, 1962, in Vigo, Spain, novelist Béa Gonzalez immigrated to Canada with her parents when she was a child. Though Gonzalez now lives in Toronto, Canada, she travels a great deal as a tour guide and on birdwatching trips with her husband to Spain and Latin America. Their trips to Seville, Spain, and Mérida, Mexico, were useful for her conception of novel-as-opera, as these cities are the settings in The Mapmaker's Opera: A Novel.
Published in Canada in 2005 and in the United States in 2007, The Mapmaker's Opera is the manifestation of Gonzalez's love of maps and desire to write "a novel in opera form," as she put it in an interview for the HarperCollins Reading Groups Web site. Gonzalez built her literary concept against the backdrops of Spain and Mexico in the early 1900s. Her novel is not the first operatic form to utilize the historic Spanish city of Seville; the French opera Carmen by Georges Bizet takes place in the Andalusian city. According to her interview, Gonzalez's experience on a particular birdwatching trip to Mérida helped her map the connection between cultures and continents.
Maps, music, birds, and romance are primary elements of The Mapmaker's Opera. The novel opens in Seville in the late 1800s, and its structure follows that of an opera; three "acts" are preceded by an "overture," and followed by a "curtain call." Dubbed a "throbbingly romantic novel" by William Grimes writing in the NewYork Times Book Review, the book also utilizes the common opera archetypes, including the ill-fated lovers Diego Clemente and Sofia Duarte.
Diego, a mapmaker and the adopted son of a bookseller in Seville, longs to see the birds he has studied since he was a boy. Sofia, a young and beautiful woman from Mérida, is equally fascinated with the colorful winged creatures. When an American naturalist presents Diego a chance to view birds in Mexico, he takes the opportunity and travels to the Yucatán Peninsula. Diego meets Sofia during the expedition in Mérida. Despite the whisperings of mounting violence around them, the meddling of Sofia's family, and the fragile existence of two endangered passenger pigeons, the two fall in love as the Mexican Revolution unfolds around them.
Carol Haggas praised Gonzalez's "enchanting debut novel" in Booklist as a "sweeping, romantic adventure." As quoted in the Bookseller, Katie Espiner, who acquired Gonzalez's The Mapmaker's Opera for HarperCollins, called the work "a highly original, lyrical, beautiful piece of writing." Furthermore, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked that "rich descriptions of Seville and Mexico aid in creating a believable tale of romance and revolution."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, August, 2007, Carol Haggas, review of The Mapmaker's Opera: A Novel, p. 36.
Bookseller, December 10, 2004, "Katie Espiner at HarperCollins Has Bought Two Novels by Canadian-Based Writer Béa Gonzalez," p. 30.
Books in Canada, February, 1999, review of The Bitter Taste of Time, p. 36; June 22, 2005, review of The Mapmaker's Opera, p. 13.
New York Times Book Review, November 23, 2007, William Grimes, "From the Glove Compartment to the Shelf."
Publishers Weekly, June 25, 2007, review of The Mapmaker's Opera, p. 30.
Quill & Quire, May, 1998, review of The Bitter Taste of Time, p. 27.
HarperCollins Canada Web site,http://www.harpercollins.ca/ (April 7, 2008), brief profile of author.
Reading Groups,http://www.readinggroups.co.uk/ (April 7, 2008), review of The Mapmaker's Opera.