The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo

The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo

A Novel

  • reading group guide
When several notebooks were recently discovered among Frida Kahlo’s belongings at her home in Coyoacán, Mexico City, acclaimed Mexican novelist F. G. Haghenbeck was inspired to write this beautifully wrought fictional account of her life. Haghenbeck imagines that, after Frida nearly died when a streetcar’s iron handrail pierced her abdomen during a traffic accident, she received one of the notebooks as a gift from her lover Tina Modotti. Frida called the notebook “The Hierba Santa Book” (The Sacred Herbs Book) and filled it with memories, ideas, and recipes.

Haghenbeck takes readers on a magical ride through Frida’s passionate life: her long and tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera, the development of her art, her complex personality, her hunger for experience, and her ardent feminism. This stunning narrative also details her remarkable relationships with Georgia O’Keeffe, Leon Trotsky, Nelson Rockefeller, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Henry Miller, and Salvador Dalí. Combining rich, luscious prose with recipes from “The Hierba Santa Book,” Haghenbeck tells the extraordinary story of a woman whose life was as stunning a creation as her art.
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  • Atria Books | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451632835 | 
  • September 2012
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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER I

That night in July wasn’t like any other; the rains had gone, leaving a starry sky free of careless clouds weeping tears on the city’s residents. Occasionally, a slight breeze whistled like a mischievous child playing in the trees surrounding the imposing blue house slumbering in the warm summer night.

It was precisely on this quiet summer eve that a constant drumming rolled through every corner of the Coyoacán neighborhood. A horse’s hooves clip-clopped against the cobblestone streets. The echo of its steps rang out on every corner and in front of the tall tile-roofed homes to warn residents of... see more

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo includes an introduction, discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction

In The Secret Book of Frida Kahlo, F. G. Haghenbeck takes readers on a magical journey through Frida Kahlo’s life. After nearly dying in a trolley accident at eighteen, Frida makes a deal with Death to live. Her injuries from the accident pain and haunt her for the rest of her life, and to keep up her end of the deal Frida must offer exquisite delicacies to the dead every year on the Mexican holiday the Day of the Dead. Her recipes are kept in a mysterious black notebook, El Libro de Hierba Santa—“The Hierba Santa Book.” Based on known events of her life, this fictional reimagining is an intriguing ride that delves into Frida’s mind and follows her from lover to lover while also exploring her painting, complex personality, lust for life, and existential feminism.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. The novel begins when Frida is close to the end of her life. Why do you think Haghenbeck chose to order the narrative this way? How does beginning the story with death affect the rest of the novel? see more

About the Author

F. G. Haghenbeck
Photography by Lillyan Funes

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