New novel by Elena Moya

La Vanguardia‘s literary supplement had a very positive review of Elena Moya’s (Tarragona, 1970) latest novel, La maestra republicana [The Republican schoolteacher].

The publisher’s description reads like this:

The encouraging fight of an infatigable woman to change the course of a truncated society. She will not allow that they bargain with her past.

For Valli Querol, the daughter of humble tenants from Morella, the Spanish Civil War did not end in 1939 but continued in a clandestine battle and a long exile. During these years of fighting with inconceivable secrets and sacrifices Valli never lost the hope of recovering that egalitarian society of which she dreamed when she was on a fellowship at the Residencia de Señoritas [Young Ladies’s Residence; women’s college during the 2nd Spanish Republic before the Civil War] in Madrid. With democracy reinstalled in Spain, after Franco’s death, Valli came back to Morella and took up her work as a teacher, but the society she found there was very different from the Republican spirit for which she had fought so hard, and the old feuds between families had not been forgotten. Decades later, when the housing bubble is at its highest, the new mayor of Morella plans to sell the old school at an astronomic price, for which he studies various offers that would turn the school into a casino, condos, or into a satellite center of elitist Eton College due to the personal interest for Morella of one of its professors. But the mayor has not taken into account the opposition and tenacity of the octogenarian Republican schoolteacher who does everything possible to avoid the turning of her school into a bargaining chip for corrupt politicians.

La maestra republicana is the vibrant story of a woman who fights to preserve the dignity of her own past, and it lets us enter the impenetrable world of Eton College and the virtually unknown Residencia de Señoritas, the feminine version of the Residencia de Estudiantes [Wikipedia]. Her story and that of the people with whom she interacts is also a metaphor of our times, of political corruption and the social despair in which we live, and of how a fighting spirit can put them in check  at the same time as it recovers the values of honesty and justice that nearly had been forgotten.

Positive reviews cited by the publisher:

Once more Elena Moya offers us a rich novel that covers different epochs and cultures and that reads in one sitting. Through Valli’s story… Moya illustrates the passage of Spain from the progressive hopes of the second republic to modern day corruption. Valli is a woman who got to know, among others, Lorca, Dalí, María de Maeztu, Victoria Kent or Margarita Nelken, she never gives up and fights in the antifranquist guerrilla of the  Maestrazgo in the 1940s, and 60 years later against corruption.    Paul Preston

Elena Moya evokes with an agile and captivating prose very different environments: the second republic’s social life, contemporary Spain’s municipal corruption, and even the exclusive world of the Eton boarding school. A thrilling  novel that catches the readers from the first page and at the same time lets them reflect on Spain’s hazardous political life of the last decades. Through its main character, … , it shows the strength of ethical principles opposite to economic interests, and it claims great ideals. It contributes nostalgia for an idyllic past, outrage about the present and lets one dream of a better world.    Julio Crespo Maclennan, director of the Cervantes Institute London

Morella becomes a brillant metaphor of our reality (…) Moya very skillfully plays with the dreams and ideals of some apparently antagonistic characters (…) Nevertheless, as always occurs in good books, there is another story behind the story itself.    Laura Ferrero, La Vanguardia


Elena Moya became known a few years ago through her first novel The Olive Groves of Belchite, originally published in English. There are some reviews here, on Moya’s webpage, and on the blog “Books on Spain”.

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