Cover Image: What They Said About Luisa

What They Said About Luisa

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Member Reviews

What They Said About Louisa, is exactly that. A collection of impressions and interactions from chosen people from Louisa’s life.

The book begins in Spain when Louisa is sixteen. She is a black slave who has become pregnant by her master. Upon his death he grants her her freedom. But how is she to care for herself and her child? She happens to meet a white man who proposes marriage to her. He wants a helpmate to go with him to Mexico while he starts up a silver mining business. She agrees but has to leave her son behind.

The book is interesting in that Louisa is never given a voice. Everything I learned about Louisa was all from each persons bias, ignorance or brief knowledge of her. One thing that was hard for me to get used to was that each person seemed to have a similar voice. I imagine that this is because it’s the same author but it felt a bit unrealistic.

So many tragic things happened to the people in this book. I was wondering when anyone would get a break! But I guess that during the inquisition nobody is going to be let off the hook!

I have never read about this era. I was surprised at the strange rules of the Catholic Church. The fact that they set up a whole system of spies to police people and get them to report their neighbors was scary. Kind of like the communists but with sins?!

Because Louisa was black, she was ostracized in Spain. I thought it would be better in Mexico but it was just the same. Most people in the community looked upon her as a slovenly, half-breed slave. Because she was very beautiful but quiet they decided she was a tease and a whore. Poor Louisa!

I wish I could have heard Louisa’s side of the story but the book is based on paperwork from the trial of the real Louisa.

I thought the book was interesting and gave it a 3.5 rounded up.

Trigger warnings: sex, child abuse, lewd acts, racism and misogyny.

Many thanks to Erika Rummel and Dundrun press for the ARC via NetGalley!!

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16th Century Spanish raciat & bigotry culture, with each chapter providing a different insight of Louisa Abrego's explotative experiences of after slavery and her life before and after.

The style & presentation 'shows you', rather than let you feel & develop your oen understanding of Louisa's perspective, which means it is hard to tell who she really was...was this the author's intention? It apprars as a well researched account based upon 16th Century Trial transcipts, but appreciate a more well developed character personal perspective.

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What They Said About Luisa by Erika Rummel
Pub date: June 18th, 2024

The story is told from the perspective of multiple characters. They all talked about Luisa Abrego, a half caste enslaved woman who, after setting free, she got married with a white man and sailed from Seville to New Spain (Mexico). Years after, she confessed her bigamy, even if she was only married to one man, but laws were so different in that time.

Luisa is the main character, and we can learn from her through diverse perspectives. All the characters see Luisa in a different way and met her in different circumstances.

The novel is very rich in history, presenting Colonial Mexico, and portraying the system or castes, the kind of punishments during the Inquisition, and the life in Zacatecas during that period with its mines and the natives of the place.

The polyperspectivity was good, but some narrators were stronger than others, and there were some slow parts, but it was also enlightening because of all the historical context provided, and I enjoyed learning from it.

Thank you, Dundurn Press and Netgalley, for the digital ARC.

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Thanks to Dundurn Press and Netgalley for giving me early access to this book for a review in return.

When I saw this book I was really fascinated by it. The cover is great and the synopsis sounded really interesting, I was so excited that I got approved to read it. This book was even better than I expected.

This book follows the life of Luisa Abrego. Once a slave who was impregnated by her master, who then marries a white man and moves to Mexico. While in Mexico she has a run in with the Spanish Inquisition, before returning back to Spain. The book is exquisitely written and researched, and is based on the 16th century trial records of the real Luisa.

The strength of this book comes from how it is told. Although Luisa is the titular character, she does not have her own perspective. It is all outside accounts of her life and the impact that she has on others. This was not what I expected going into the novel and during the first few chapters I was skeptical, but as I got further into the novel, and as more characters were introduced, I fell in love.

There is an obvious weakness with this method of storytelling, and that is that we never hear from Luisa. She is, mostly, a silent character. She is described as shy and quiet, and often doesn't speak.; That means that there is very little dialogue with her, so that it is really difficult to tell who she really is. If I could change one thing about the novel, it would be that the afterward would take place from Luisa's perspective.

The best part about this book is how unique all the different voices are. The author does a wonderful job at creating all these full and actualized characters who have distinct voices. I was really impressed that while I was reading it I could hear such distinct voices in my head for each of the characters. It takes a lot of skill to write this way.

Overall this was a very enjoyable read. The characters are wonderfully flushed out and realized, and the history in it is vivid and ever-present. I would highly recommend this book.

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Really enjoyed the pace and writing style of the book which also provided better understanding of the situation in the world in the sixteen century. Slavery, the power of church, inquisition, lives of different people from different parts of the society, all these things were interestingly presented by Erika Rummel, a master storyteller and historian. Great story, very attractive from the beginning to the end .

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What They Said About Luisa is a captivating historical tale that gripped me from start to finish. As a fan of historical fiction, Luisa Abrego's journey, from enslaved woman to navigating perilous trials in Mexico, deeply resonated with me. Rummel's storytelling, based on real sixteenth-century records, vividly brings Luisa's world to life. The moral dilemmas and rich historical tapestry make this novel an engaging read for anyone who loves the genre, solidifying my appreciation for captivating historical fiction narratives."

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A good history journey is always a fun read. And if you look at this story like a Rebecca, where we hear all about the main character, but we never actually get to hear from her, then it will be a better journey for you. I loved hearing all about Louisa of Seville and her incredible life through the ten or so characters who talk about her. It was like getting a newspaper journey of her life.

A slave who was emancipated and shows persistence and moxie through her life is a great role model for anyone, no matter where you are in life. Its interesting to view bigotry, racism, and bias set in a different time and almost a different world than the one we are living in and to see the parallels it still has in our lives today.

This is a lovely historical fiction and a great read if this time in history interests you!

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy for my honest opinion!

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This story was like a candle you save for a special occasion, that you light in spurts throughout the day and savor slowly. This was how I enjoyed the story of Luisa, which is very different from stories I devour quickly. I realized early on that I wanted to take my time with this one.

We are introduced to Luisa from many different perspectives; her character development is well thought out, intentional, and pleasant. The details in the novel painted vivid images for me and I found myself liking and disliking characters. Being able to have readers connect in very visceral ways takes a talented author, which Erika Rummel undoubtedly is. I've never read anything by Erika but will seek additional work out from this author moving forward.

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Luisa is born a slave in Seville at a time when the Spanish are rapidly extending their colonial power over the American continent. Based on a real historical figure, Luisa Abrego, is emancipated and left a healthy inheritance following the death of her master, we follow Luisa's journey across the Atlantic and back again. It’s an interesting historical period, with staunch Christianity penetrating through society, an important tool for the Spanish government to maintain order and control in their new colonies.


We follow Luisa through the voices of those she encounters, never following her own thoughts, but instead learning about her through the words of others. I enjoyed this perspective, we hear from distinct characters who have their own world views, prejudices, and morals. Women like Luisa, born into slavery with little social standing, rarely got the chance to write their own narratives. We learn much of women in history from the standpoint of others, men, or those taught to write - often in religious orders. It felt relevant therefore to see her story through the eyes of others, you are left as a reader to judge who she really was. This was an enjoyable and well written historical novel, covering an interesting period, at the heart of which was a likeable heroine who despite not ever being our main perspective, felt incredibly real.

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This was a historical based story during the period of the advancement of the Spanish Inquisition into South America. and is based upon the story of a real person. It demonstrates the typical levels of society during this period. Luisa starts life as a servant and ends up as a financially independent woman in her home village and the other village folk cannot cope with the change. My only issue was that it ended very suddenly and I wanted more of the story to take her to the end of her life and how her sone fared.
Please Erika continue this story to the very end with another book following the ife of Luisa.

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Thank you to NetGalley and Dundurn Press for the opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book. This book is based on writings about the real Luisa but every chapter is told from a viewpoint of a different person telling her story. I loved this book and thought it was fascinating. Five stars for me! I’ll definitely read more by this author! Check it out on may 21st.

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A very engaging read! Taking place during the years of the Spanish Inquisition, Luisa ( an actual person about whom very little is know) leaves her native Spain and illegitimate son ( an infant) to travel to Mexico with a husband she barely knows. We hear from everyone about Luisa but the only voice we don’t hear is hers. This makes for great storytelling. The style and characters reminded me of the novels of Isabelle Allende and fans of Allende should like this one too. I would highly recommend it

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“What They Said About Luisa” by Erika Rummel is a captivating and meticulously researched historical novel that offers a vivid and compelling portrayal of the life of Luisa Abrego, an emancipated woman who forges a new future for herself in colonial Mexico. The book has been praised for its intriguing subject and narrative approach, making it a literary masterpiece that deserves to be cherished and experienced. Rummel’s storytelling is both enchanting and thought-provoking, as she weaves a complex and fascinating tale of Luisa’s life, from her emancipation in Seville to her journey to colonial Mexico. The author’s attention to historical detail and her carefully researched imagining of Luisa’s life bring the sixteenth-century setting to life, offering readers a rich and immersive reading experience.

The character of Luisa is portrayed with depth and nuance, allowing readers to empathize with her struggles and triumphs as she navigates the challenges of her time. The book’s narrative approach, which presents Luisa’s life through the perspectives of various characters, adds layers of complexity to the story, offering a multifaceted and compelling portrayal of a woman caught in the tumultuous events of her era. The book’s exploration of themes such as emancipation, identity, and the impact of colonialism on individuals’ lives resonates with readers, making it a valuable and thought-provoking addition to the historical fiction genre. Rummel’s ability to bring the past to life and to shed light on the experiences of real historical figures, such as the real Luisa based on sixteenth-century trial records, adds authenticity and depth to the novel.

In conclusion, “What They Said About Luisa” by Erika Rummel is a captivating and meticulously researched historical novel that offers a vivid and compelling portrayal of the life of Luisa Abrego. The book’s intriguing subject, narrative approach, and the author’s attention to historical detail make it a literary masterpiece that deserves to be cherished and experienced. Rummel’s storytelling is both enchanting and thought-provoking, offering readers a rich and immersive reading experience that sheds light on the impact of colonialism on individuals’ lives. This book is a valuable and thought-provoking addition to the historical fiction genre, offering a multifaceted and compelling portrayal of a woman caught in the tumultuous events of her era.

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A solid 3 stars for this upcoming release by Erika Rummel, a story following the life of Luisa Abrego, as told from multiple perspectives of those who have met her.
This was a super fascinating concept and I loveee anything set in 16th century Spain- however, while I did really enjoy some perspectives and found them to be interesting and engaging, some others seemed less necessary and the language in which they were written did take me out of the historical setting of the story. I would have enjoyed if the final chapter had been told from Luisa's perspective, just to round off the story of her life.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC of this novel.

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This is a story told about a Mulatto slave by several people she encounters in her life, but we never hear her own voice.

The first character we meet is Luisa’s husband, but it is too brief even to begin to learn who Luisa is. The second character was so unlikeable, that I almost stopped reading this book. I’m glad that I did not.
The reader meets 10 more characters all of whom share their opinion of Luisa. Each speaks in a distinctive voice and draws out specific characteristics of this woman.

The story is based on the transcript of a trial of Luisa in the 16th-century Seville. Luisa’s life takes her from Seville to a rural Mexican mining town, and then back to Seville during the era of the Inquisition.

The twist in the plot is when Luisa self-incriminates herself to the Inquisition.

It is a story of persistence, ignorance, loyalty, sacrifice, and love. Well worth reading.

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A well-written and expertly researched historical novel about Luisa Abrego of Seville, a lesser-known female figure in the history of the Spanish Inquisition. I absolutely loved how beautifully Erika Rummel was able to capture the reader's interest within a few pages and how elegantly she portrayed the events that took place not only in Luisa's life but for those who lived during the Spanish Inquisition. I highly recommend any history lover to give this book a try"

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A well written, extensively researched historical novel following real-life former slave Luisa Abrego. Each chapter uses a different person’s perspective to follow her journey from Spain to Mexico and back again. The novel felt like it was less about Luisa than it was about exploring the period and history of Spain, Mexico, colonialism and slavery. The format is designed to erase Luisa's voice as it was in life but I found it frustrating to be so distant from her. Not one for me.

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I was completely swept up in this stunning historical fiction novel that tells the tale of Luisa Abrego, a former slave who bravely forges a new life in colonial Mexico. The author's masterful storytelling transported me to 16th-century Seville and Mexico, immersing me in the rich details and brutal realities of the time.

What struck me most about this book was the author's bold choice to tell Luisa's story through the eyes of multiple historical figures who intersect with her journey. It's a risky move that pays off brilliantly, offering a kaleidoscopic perspective that adds depth and complexity to Luisa's narrative.

Luisa herself is a triumph of a protagonist - her strength and resilience in the face of unimaginable adversity left me in awe. But what I loved most about this book was how it challenged me to confront the harsh realities of history, and the ways in which women like Luisa have been erased or marginalized from the record.

This book isn't just a compelling story - it's a necessary one. It's a reminder that history is messy and multifaceted, and that the stories of women like Luisa Abrego deserve to be told and remembered. If you're looking for a book that will transport you to another time and place, challenge your assumptions, and leave you breathless, then this is the book for you.

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Erika Rummel has written this historical novel, very loosely basing it around the interesting story of Luisa de Abrego. The real Luisa was the first recorded Christian marriage in what is now Florida. Later she confessed voluntarily to the inquisition that she may have committed bigamy. The historical record shows that she was absolved from this "sin" but forced to separate from her husband and was left alone in the New World.
From this skeleton of a story, Rummel has woven a new and intriguing alternative story for Luisa, bringing her home to Seville and giving her the happy ending she woukd seem to deserve.
The clever device Erika Rumnel uses, as the book's title suggests, is to use various different voices to unfold Luisa's story. From the disgruntled widow in Seville who has lost her servant to the thoughtful lawyer who helps her case against the inquisition, a range of those who came across Luisa, build up the picture of her life. Luisa herself remains silent, and that is strangely satisfying.
Erika Rummel does a very good job of giving an insight into each individual as they tell their version of the Luisa they knew. In a way Luisa remains a shadowy figure while the different narrators give much away about themselves in the way they present their stories.
I enjoyed this novel very much, all the more so because I didn't realise, until I had finished it, that Luisa was , in fact, a real person.
I am a little conflicted about changing history quite so much more, but overall I would wish that Luisa really would have got her happy ending...and who knows...maybe she did after she stepped back into history's shadows!

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I enjoyed this story, with a few caveats. First, as with all historical fiction I read, I appreciate the opportunity to learn and gain insight into people, cultures, and events is the past that I otherwise would be unfamiliar with. With this book, I learned a little about 16th century Spain, colonial Mexico, and the Inquisition.

However, I didn't feel "transported" back to the time, as the historical details felt superficial and the voices of the characters too modern. The language was particularly jarring for me, although I do feel that this was intentional by the author, rather than an oversight. Just not my cup of tea. Nevertheless, I always enjoy learning about something new, and the story itself was engaging.

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