Dolores by Lauren Aimee Curtis

‘Dolores wasn’t the name her mother had given her when she arrived in the world.  Feet first.’

We meet Dolores outside a convent in June.  She is sixteen, she is ill, she falls, she is taken in.  Who is Dolores, and where did she come from?

‘When does Dolores’ story begin?  From the first memory and then again from each variation of that same memory that comes after.  Dolores was always reaching towards her past.  Cold hands grasping in the dark.  She was always gesturing, somewhat slyly, towards her future.  If anything, her story must start somewhere in the middle.’

We never learn Dolores’s real name, even though we spend quite a bit of time with her in the past.  Dolores is not (and will not be) the first young woman to be beguiled by the first young man to show her attention.  But Angelo’s interest is transactional rather than romantic, and then he offers Dolores to others.  Dolores becomes pregnant, Angelo abandons her and does not answer her calls.

‘How many times did she call before his phone was switched off?  Twenty, maybe more.’

Dolores travels to her cousin in Seville.

‘In another hemisphere, on the other side of the world.’

We never know where Dolores came from.  This part of the past is not shared with us.  It is enough to know that Dolores made an escape (of sorts) although I wonder if her mother suspected her pregnancy and agreed to let her visit her cousin (and persuaded her husband to agree) after Dolores’s cousin paid the airfare.  I wonder, but it is not an important detail.

In the convent, Dolores seems to find some comfort in the rituals.  It is a small convent with elderly nuns, with a few novices seeking to take vows.  She remembers the past and seems to be ignoring what is ahead.  But there are dangers, even in a convent.

And the ending?  What choice does Dolores have? What does she want to do?

I read this in one sitting because I needed to know how it would end.  I felt sorry for Dolores.  I wanted to know those parts of her story hidden from us: the dreams and ambitions of the young woman we only know as Dolores.  I wanted to know what her future might hold.  Would she return to (and remain in) the convent?

This is Ms Curtis’s first book, and what a powerful story it is.  Highly recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith