I loved The Curriculum Vitae of Aurora Ortiz, the one book (so far) by Spanish writer Almudena Solana that has been translated into English. I could not wait for another to be translated and so I took on the task of reading Las Mujeres Inglesas Destrozan Los Tacones Al Andar (“English Women Destroy Their Heels By Walking” would be the literal translation). Animated once again by an unforgettable heroine, Las Mujeres Inglesas Destrozan Los Tacones Al Andar is an enchanting and moving and ultimately fist-pumping novel about work, friendship, family, immigration, and resilience. Louisa works in a call center in London, giving out information about the city. She answers every call-in not with her name but with an assigned number (345) and to her friends she is known as Pirita or “Pyrite”, a reference to those collections of minerals in which the rocks are arranged side by side by side in a box: that is what the call center would look like seen from above. Pyrite is also called “fool’s gold” for its resemblance to gold, but in Louisa’s case, it should be “hidden gold” for as a character, she is an understated but deeply-rich fount of treasure and brilliance.
Grandchild to a cobbler grandfather who took great pride in making shoes in their native Galicia region of Northern Spain, Louise still dreams of shoes, and the book itself is organized into section headings like “shoes”, “slippers”, and “boots”. Her parents came to London when she was just a child, bringing Louise along as they sought a better life for her and for themselves. Now Louise lives with all the other women from the call center (their pay is so measly they must all share an apartment) and works an arduous schedule. But Louisa will not be driven down (heels destroyed) by the rigid and demanding monotony of her work, or by the financial insecurities of such a life, or by the sudden fragility of her aging family. Instead, she is a woman who seeks and finds connections, the supporting sole (soul) of resilience and grace. At work, she answers her calls with a generosity of spirit that allows her to communicate across the anonymous divide, and when not at work, her nimble and open mind allow her to travel far beyond the limits of her commuting life.
When Louisa must undertake a journey back to Galicia, she finds the strength to do it, and even more strength for having done it: she used her shoes for what they are meant to do, to move her forward and not simply back and forth. In the end, Louisa is still moving, always walking forward and hoping for the best, buoyed by the height of her spirit (heels) and by the enduring soul (soles) passed onto her by her family.
I can only hope that Las Mujeres Inglesas Destrozan Los Tacones Al Andar will be translated into English so that the audience in the United States that was charmed and moved by The Curriculum Vitae of Aurora Ortiz can by further enriched by the writings, wisdom, and most wonderful heroines of Almudena Solana.