I received an Advance Uncopyedited Edition of this book. All opinions are my own.
Primi Peregrino is a younger sister, daughter of two eccentric parents who disappear from a boat one day. She is growing up in the Philippines in a time of great uncertainty and instability, under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. As Primi navigates adolescence and early adulthood, surrounded by official deceits, uncertainty about who her parents truly were, and the rise of her older sister as a sort of guru, she searches for both her identity and the fulfilment of her desires through books. This love for books also leads her into a series of tempestuous relationships with a variety of writers and poets. In Manila in the 1980s, art and politics are tangled up together until Primi’s life and the history of the Philippines hits a climax with the EDSA Revolution of 1986.
Bibliolepsy was first published in 1997; this new edition makes the book available to a North American audience for the first time. While it might seem late to publicize a book about a revolution that occurred more than 30 years ago, I think this speaks to two things: 1) A growing interest in Western readers to read books from around the world and 2) the unfortunate relevance of this story to current politics in the Philippines.
While there is a lot here about words and language that will appeal to many book lovers fascinated by words, this is also a story that requires some knowledge of history and politics in the Philippines. I’ll admit that I have only a bare minimum of this knowledge and I imagine greater knowledge would have added quite a bit to my reading. My connection to the Philippines is that my parents lived there for two years in the early 1980s. (My older brother was actually born in Manila.) Their experience living in Marcos’ time seems to have left an impression as the page for 4 Month Milestones in my baby book (February 1986) makes mention of Marcos’ flee from the Philippines. I still think of Imelda Marcos whenever I see a lot of shoes!
This won’t be a book for everyone but if you’re interested in learning more about the Philippines, either historically or today, or have any kind of personal connection, I think the re-release of Apostol’s debut book might be for you.