BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Bibliolepsy by Gina Apostol [in Booklist]

Philippines-born Gina Apostol has earned significant recognition for Insurrecto (2018) and The Gun Dealers’ Daughter (2012). Such success often inspires resurrection of older works, in this case, Apostol’s debut, which she began writing in 1983 at 19 and which won the 1997 Philippine National Book Award.

“I changed nothing much in this edition,” Apostol writes in her introductory note, although she wishes her “country truly had moved on, become [a] state of democracy and justice” yet to be realized since surviving the Marcos regime and becoming mired in Duterte’s dictatorship.

Her title, she explains, is a “made-up word” that opens narrator Primi’s story – “Bibliolepsy: a mawkishness derived from habitual aloneness and congenital desire.” Primi is the younger daughter of a part-Chinese animator father and a Spanish and American taxidermist mother who killed themselves when Primi was “eight – seven, really,” and sister Anna was 14. The novel meanders through the decade that follows, revealing the unreliability of their guardian grandmother, Anna’s countless affairs and political liaisons, and Primi’s obsession with books.

While glimpses of Apostol’s brilliance are undeniable, the portrait-of-the-novelist-as-a-teen proves more work-in-progress than mature accomplishment.

Review: “Fiction,” Booklist, January 1&15, 2022

Readers: Adult

Published: 2022


No Comment

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.