We are thrilled to announce that THE SECRET MUSIC AT TORDESILLAS by Marjorie Sandor has been named winner of the 2020 Foreward INDIES Award for Historical (Adult) Fiction. As the editor-in-chief of Hidden River Publishing, and the proud publisher of this wonderful book, I am very happy for Marjorie, who has created a world that every lover of historical fiction should be eager to enter. It is the court of Juana the Mad, during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. It was a time when even the court musicians had to face the horrors of the Inquisition and were forced to renounce their own religions. What happens when a court musician secretly holds fast to his own spiritual traditions at risk of death? What happens to the underground religious communities during this time of great religious violence? You need to get your hands on this book and enter this world. Everyone who loves historical fiction should be rushing to add this book to their bookshelf.
We here at Hidden River are thrilled to announce the release of The Secret Music at Tordesillas, by Marjorie Sandor, which is the inaugural winner of our Tuscarora Award in Historical Fiction.
The novel is set in 16th Century Spain. It is April, 1555, and Juana I of Castile, the Spanish queen known as “la loca,” has died after forty-seven years in forced seclusion at Tordesillas. Her last musician, Juan de Granada, refuses to depart with the other servants, forcing two functionaries of the Holy Office of the Inquisition to interrogate him in the now-empty palace. But is it really empty? Or is there, as Holy Office suspects, a heretic hidden on the premises, a converso secretly practicing the forbidden rites of Judaism? Only Juan knows the answer, and his subversive tale is at once a ballad of lost love and a last gambit to save a life—and a rich cultural and spiritual tradition on the verge of erasure.
Sandor has created a story so alive, so filled with intrigue and passion, that the time of the Spanish Inquisition comes boldly to life. So often, the story is told from the perspective of those Christians. For them, the reclamation of territories from the Muslims, through the conquests of Ferdinand and Isabella, is understood as a triumph. But this was certainly not so for the practicing, pious Jews and Muslims who had thrived, co-existing peacefully, during the period of Islamic rule. For them, the time brought the terrors of the Spanish Inquisition. What was it like to be a Jew or a Muslim during such a time? Specifically, what was life like for a court musician, secretly faithful to his real religion, but forced to masquerade as a convert to Christianity?
The Secret Music at Tordesillas has received much well-deserved praise:
“Radiant, passionate, deeply intelligent and intensely moving, this brilliant novel brings alive a place and time surprisingly resonant with our own. Love and music burn like a laser through these glorious pages.”
“In The Secret Music of Tordesillas, the fabulously gifted Marjorie Sandor tells the absorbing story of a Jewish musician and his queen, both living precarious lives in the tumultuous world of the Spanish Inquisition. Sandor’s lustrous prose resonates like the music she so eloquently describes and her characters are exquisitely complicated. Reading these gorgeous pages, I felt that I too had taken up residence in some castle full of dark corners.”
“An historical novel of striking imagination and lyricism, this sly tale of sixteenth-century Spain, with its secrets and masks involving the interrelationships of Catholics, Muslims and Jews, has an uncanny bearing on our own country’s diversity tensions. It is a pleasure to have another of Marjorie Sandor’s delicious fictions: she is writing at the top of her form.”
“I found Marjorie Sandor’s The Secret Music at Tordesillas irresistible, as appealing for its grand romantic adventure as it is for its clear-eyed exploration of culture, tradition, and identity. Its narrative–replete with hidden Jews, palace intrigue, a captive queen, a hopeless love–is rendered in a prose as intoxicating as the ancient music that informs it. This is history in the form of a haunting song.”
The novel is available at:
Marjorie Sandor is the author of four books of fiction and non-fiction, including the memoir, The Late Interiors: A Life Under Construction, (2011) and the 2004 Winner of the National Jewish Book Award in Fiction, Portrait of my Mother, Who Posed Nude in Wartime: Stories. Her earlier book of personal essays, The Night Gardener: A Search for Home, won the 2000 Oregon Book Award for Literary Nonfiction. In February 2015, St. Martins Press published her anthology, The Uncanny Reader: Stories from the Shadows. She teaches creative writing at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
Her debut novel, The Secret Music at Tordesillas, is the inaugural winner of the Tuscarora Award for Historical Fiction, and is forthcoming from Hidden River Press in 2020.
Marjorie’s work has appeared in such magazines as The Georgia Review, AGNI, and TriQuarterly, as well as in Best American Short Stories 1985 and 1988, The Pushcart Prize XIII, Twenty Under Thirty, and The Best American Spiritual Writing 2000. Sandor’s characters—real and imagined–inhabit urban gardens and old houses. They linger on the ever-shifting threshold between home and wilderness, between youth and old age, and most of all between the human quest for adventure, and the desire for refuge. In her stories and essays, she explores family, community life, and the pull of art to expose our darkest and best-kept secrets, our restlessness and comical mistakes and deep regrets; our desire to create a domestic paradise against all odds.
Praise for Marjorie:
“Whether she is writing essays, as in the splendid The Night Gardener (1999), or fiction, Sandor’s prose is as tangy and luscious as just-plucked fruit.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist
“Marjorie Sandor has all the skills of a masterful writer of stories, but her compassion and beguiling tone are all her own. Her distinctive style and rich understanding of people raise our hopes.”
Marjorie is available for interviews, readings and other events. Please contact us for further information.
Hidden River Arts is pleased to announce Marjorie Sandor of Corvallis, Oregon, as the inaugural winner of The Tuscarora Award for Historical Fiction for her novel, The Secret Music at Tordesillas.
Ms. Sandor speaks of her novel, “The novel tells the story of a 16th-century musician of Jewish descent navigating the ever-growing terror of the Spanish Inquisition from within the court of the Catholic Kings Fernando and Isabel, and later, that of their tragic, intriguing daughter, Queen Juana “the Mad.” Forcibly converted to Christianity as a child, the gifted young instrumentalist Juan de Granada carries in his memory a music—and a culture—now punishable by death. The dangers of his daily life gradually increase as he finds himself drawn close to a young woman of the court, herself the daughter of converts, whose courage and secret passion for the old traditions threaten her life, and the lives of those she loves.”
While exploring a particular historical time and place, the novel also explores the very human and timeless struggle to hold fast to personal and artistic liberties in a time rife with national paranoia, ethnic cleansing – certainly relevant to our times. The Secret Music at Tordesillas reveals a nearly-undocumented aspect of the Spanish Inquisition: the way that cultural and religious oppression threatens to doom forbidden artistic practices.
Marjorie Sandor is the author of four highly-acclaimed books of short fiction and essays, including the linked story collection Portrait of my Mother, Who Posed Nude in Wartime, winner of a 2004 National Jewish Book Award. Her work has appeared in such journals as AGNI, The Georgia Review and The Harvard Review, and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. Her edited international short-story anthology, The Uncanny Reader, appeared in 2015. She teaches in the MFA Program at Oregon State University and the Rainier Writing Workshop.
The Tuscarora Award is offered yearly for an unpublished book-length work of historical fiction. The winner receives a $1,000 cash award and publication with Hidden River Publishing. The next submission cycle for the award deadlines May 31, 2019. For information, please see our guidelines.
Hidden River Arts was established over twenty years ago in Philadelphia, PA as an organization focused on “serving the unserved artist”, looking to provide supports in the form of awards, live arts events, workshops, and publication to bring attention to artists working in under-recognized areas, or in under-recognized forms. In addition to the information here on our blog, you may explore our Hidden River Arts website.
The semi-finalists and finalists of this inaugural cycle of The Tuscarora Award can be found here.