(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The House on the Lagoon is the story of an island immersed in constant struggle on many levels: racial, linguistic, religious, economic, and social. It is about one woman’s attempt to understand and redeem her history, and that of all the women in her family, by writing an account of their lives. The accuracy of this account becomes an issue in the plot; however, it is her bravery in attempting the rediscovery that becomes significant. It is also about a husband who is terrified of his wife’s laying claim to herself and revealing some embarrassing truths about him and his family. The novel illustrates how the continuing debate of statehood versus independence for the island has shaped every generation born in Puerto Rico in the twentieth century.

The House on the Lagoon is a semiautobiographical family history spanning approximately one hundred years, from the 1880’s to the early 1990’s. Most of the action, however, focuses on the Mendizabal family from July 4, 1917, when Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship, to the day of a hotly contested plebiscite on statehood in 1993, when fictional independentistas stage a takeover, kidnapping an important executive.

This account of the Mendizabals’ rise and fall serves as a microcosm of twentieth century Puerto Rican history. Rosario Ferré was an upper-class woman whose father, Luis Ferré, was a governor in Puerto Rico in the late 1960’s, founder of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, and one of the island’s wealthiest businessmen. In the novel, she satirizes the milieu she fled to become a writer, refining and exaggerating her mocking spirit...

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The House on the Lagoon Bibliography

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Friedman, Ellen G. Review of The House on the Lagoon, by Rosario Ferré. Review of Contemporary Fiction (Spring, 1996): 168. Stresses the weakness and predictability of Ferré’s characters and their political views.

Hintz, Suzanne S. Rosario Ferré: A Search for Identity. New York: Peter Lang, 1995. The only English-language book-length critical study of Ferré’s fiction. Although it does not include discussion of The House on the Lagoon, this excellent study analyzes the author’s earlier works, which contain political and social themes that appear also in The House on the Lagoon. Contains a bibliography of works by and about Ferré.

Publishers Weekly. Review of The House on the Lagoon, by Rosario Ferré. (July 3, 1995): 47. Discusses Ferré’s novel as semifictional autobiography and a compelling panorama of Puerto Rican history.

Stavans, Ilan. “Serving Two Masters.” The Nation (November 20, 1995): 640-642. Compares The House on the Lagoon to other contemporary Latin American works with similar themes—specifically Puerto Rico’s divided self—and techniques.