East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

My Weekend with the Sweetheart

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I like those books that can disrupt your tightly-plotted schedule. I hate them too, but mostly I like them. We sometimes chance upon them, and we have to drop everything else and just read.
It happened me this weekend, via a strange discussion wit some online friends about, of all things, wrestling, and an ultra-cheap paperback offer from Amazon.
And so, I took a much needed break this weekend and got in bed with The Sweetheart, the first novel by American writer Angelina Mirabella.
It was a good choice on my part.

the-sweetheart-9781476733906_hr (1)

And yes, with that cover, I was for a briefest of moments afraid I was going to wade into MadMen territory – but thankfully I was not.

Set in 1953, The Sweetheart is the story of a transformation. Young Leonie Putzkammer is living a dead-end life as a waitress when she develops a fascination for wrestling, and soon catches the eye of a promoter, and is offered a way out. The novel follows Leonie Putzkammer transformation into Gorgeous Gwen Davies, a strong newcomer in the world of female wrestling. A hell – the wrestler playing the bad guy in the show – and a sexy, aloof ice queen. And then we follow Gwen’s decision to take the thing one step further, morphing into The Sweetheart, and becoming the idol of the crowds.
There is a price to pay, of course. But isn’t youth that time when you don’t care about prices and payments?

Set in the somewhat seedy world of professional fighting in the first part of the Fifties, littered with cheap motels, lurid paperbacks, Bakelite radios and late diner food, The Sweetheart is indeed a thing of beauty. Beautifully drawn characters, beautiful dialogs, a beautiful narrative arc and development.
Even the deep structure and the style of the writing are beautiful.
Mirabella has been able to create a story about characters we care about, people whose stories we need to know, and yet she kept it lightweight, nicely paced and ironic.

There is a hint of pulp sensibility and sensationalism in the premise – is there anything pulpier than female wrestling in the 50s? – but this is a very elegant book, and a nice place in which to spend a rainy Sunday.
It’s not genre fiction by any means, but it is still highly recommended if you are looking for a very good book, that manages to be the right amount of cynical and yet funny and optimistic in its own way.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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