I don’t know much when it comes to the history of South America. My latest read, “Our Lives Are The Rivers” by Jaime Manrique, has introduced me to a subject full of rich and passionate history.
I recently discovered someone at my workplace also shares a love for historical fiction. She put “Our Lives” on my desk and said she, too, didn’t know much of the story before she read the book. As I reached certain milestones of “Our Lives” I gushed with my coworker about the amazing tale she shared with me.
The 2006 novel is based on real events centered around freedom fighter Manuela Saenz and her love affair with South American liberator Simon Bolivar.
“Our lives are the rivers that flow into the sea of Death.” — Jorge Manrique
Saenz was in her early 20s when her love affair with the general began, and during a time when I was in college and trying to get my career started, Saenz was fighting in battles, earning the rank of colonel, during the freedom movement to overthrow the Spanish crown. The freedom fighter prevented an assassination attempt on Bolivar’s life and became known as “the liberator of the liberator.”
Saenz was incarcerated, wounded and eventually exiled from Colombia and Ecuador in the name of love for her country and for Bolivar. The novel opens with “I was born a rich bastard, and died a poor one,” giving foresight into what’s to come.
Against Bolivar’s wishes, all of his writings, speeches and letters were preserved and provided to historians to gain insight into the liberator’s philosophy and personal life. Saenz’s letters from the general were also preserved.
Premature death separated the lovers in 1830, and it wasn’t until just a few years ago that Bolivar and Saenz were memorialized together in Venezuela.
“Our Lives Are The Rivers” was a shift from my usual preference for turn-of-the-century historical stories set in Europe. I’m so glad for an introduction into a part of history I had not visited.
What are your historical fiction recommendations?