Books: The Fencing Master

By Arturo Perez-Reverte

Madrid, the 1860s: a time, like most others, of greed, thuggery and murky politics. The old days, if one squints and frames the view carefully, were more honorable. Don Jaime, a superb fencer and gifted instructor, is old, honorable and hungry because swordsmanship has deteriorated from noble necessity to mere sport. His client list has dwindled. Then comes a new student, rich, eager, a marvelous fencer but--impossible!--a woman. Splendid nonsense, with foils and bodices unbuttoned, by the author of The Seville Communion.

--By John Skow


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