Review: Historical fiction 'The Living Infinite' unveils life beyond the palace for one princess

In February of 1864 Princess Eulalia was born to Queen Isabel II of Spain, a stubborn, independent child who would become as famous and beloved as Princess Diana was in the 20th century. In a new work of historical fiction, author Chantel Acevedo uses the facts of Eulalia’s extraordinary life as a springboard into a gripping fictional tale of one woman’s quest to break from the rigors of palace life and pursue an independent autonomous course.

“The Living Infinite” opens when Eulalia is just a baby and Amalia, a poor new mother from Burgos, is hired to serve as a nodriza, or wet nurse, for the princess. The narrative alternates in perspective between the two women, and though the time Amalia and her son Tomas spend in the palace is brief, it sets in motion a series of events that will change both Amalia’s quiet home life back in Burgos and the gilded life behind the palace walls.

After spending her youth exiled in Paris, where she enjoyed great freedoms, Eulalia returns to Spain, marries her cousin and resumes her stifling palace life. Alternating now between Eulalia and Tomas, a fuller perspective of life within — and beyond — the palace walls emerges, and the friendship between Eulalia, Tomas, and his mother becomes more important — and heartfelt.

When Eulalia writes a scathing memoir about her life and family, she turns to her old milk brother Tomas for assistance in securing a publisher. Under the guise of serving as a royal representative at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, she and Tomas travel together, first to Cuba, then to the United States, on an adventurous quest to publish her secret memoir as well as explore, for the first time, a kind of freedom.

Both a page-turner and a clever exploration of gender roles and decorum, “The Living Infinite” is an engaging read sure to inspire armchair historians and those, like Eulalia, tired of having their voices ignored.

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