La Regenta does not deliver what is promised on the back cover blurb. “Smoldering with sensuality” is not close to an accurate description of this less than satisfying story revolving around a young woman married to an old man who must seek satisfaction elsewhere. She turns at various times to both religion and adultery, which is particularly scandalous since she and her husband live in an insular world filled with busybodies who have a strict double standard for the acceptable behavior for couples.
In mixing religion and sex in her fight to have some semblance of a life, Ana is caught between the devout attentions of a priest and the lecherous attentions of an impassioned suitor. Keeping in mind that this book was first published in 1884-1885, the fact that this book caused a scandal can only be attributed to the lack of sophistication and the prevalence of oppressive morality-mongers. By today’s standards, the timidity with which Alas discusses sex in La Regenta is laughable.
Despite the lack of fire in the story, the plot is solid, the pacing good, and the dialogue advances the story effortlessly. The characters are well fleshed out, and the time period of the story is so well portrayed that the reader feels transported into a long by gone era. The picture that emerges of life in a small provincial town back then is horrifying to a modern woman, though probably not so much to a man since many men still want the double standard kept in place today.
Ana was ostracized because she refused to conform to the fate her being born a woman sealed her to. She would not be bowed by convention and left to suffer in silence and loneliness. She had the courage to realize that she needed more, and she did what she had to do to get what she needed.
This makes La Regenta a very valuable life lesson for today’s woman. Ana’s example should inspire us to take our futures into our own hands and make our own satisfaction and happiness. This is a good book for those who are interested in history and a great book for those who enjoy stories that empower women.