The Awakening of Miss Prim – Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera, An Uplifting Story

The Awakening of Miss Prim was a book I chose to warm me up and distract me a little bit during London’s cold winter days. Here, I volunteer at a charity, and as you can guess, I was asked to order all the books in the shop. While I was reviewing the books we could sell one by one, this book’s title caught my attention, and frankly, I thought the cover was adorable.


The Awakening of Miss Prim’s blurb was so exciting and happy that I succumbed to my curiosity and started reading in the shop’s tiny office. Only after reading about twenty pages I was able to get back to work. It was a joy to read this book at home while drinking my hot chocolate.

The Awakening of Miss Prim is a book that starts well, makes exquisite promises and sadly gets a bit silly towards the end. Though, when I decided to buy the book, I already knew that I would not read a great literary work, and when it was finished, I would not like it a lot, with my standards raised by being a reader for so many years. But, it turns out, I was still expecting a little more from the author.

The Awakening of Miss Prim - Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

Instead of talking about the parts of the book that I don’t like, I’m going to talk about that little village that made me dream a thousand dreams; San Ireneo de Arnois. Here people live with philosophy, literature and art. While various languages ​​are taught to young children, their love of literature is instilled at a very young age.

In this beautiful village, people dismiss formal education and jobs requiring formal education, and aesthetics are at the forefront. Houses, roads, teapots and trays, pictures, notebooks; everything you can think of is created to be pleasing to your eyes and soul. So reading about it is also a joy! And of course, most importantly, the fact that everyone living here is happy makes this village a small-scale paradise.

Instead of dwelling on the character development (or rather the lack of it) in The Awakening of Miss Prim, I imagined that I lived in this village created by the author and finished it. It is an uplifting, feel-good book, and the setting is excellent. So I’d suggest you not be like me and enjoy the book. Enjoy!

You say you’re looking for beauty, but this isn’t the way to achieve it, my dear friend. You won’t find it while you look to yourself, as if everything revolved around you. Don’t you see? It’s exactly the other way around, precisely the other way around. You mustn’t be careful, you must get hurt. What I am trying to explain, child, is that unless you allow the beauty you seek to hurt you, to break you and knock you down, you’ll never find it.

Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera, The Awakening of Miss Prim
The Awakening of Miss Prim - Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

The Awakening of Miss Prim

In this #1 international bestseller, a young woman leaves everything behind to work as a librarian in a remote French village, where she finds her outlook on life and love challenged in every way.

When Miss Prim, an independent, accomplished young woman, reads an ad in the newspaper seeking a feminine spirit to work as a librarian in the lush countryside of France, she finds herself compelled to apply. Little does she know what kind of world she is about to step into.
Miss Prim dutifully accepts the job and begins organizing her employer’s vast library. A knowledgeable, mysterious gentleman with very specific opinions about life, he challenges Miss Prim’s seemingly unshakeable disposition.

And as she becomes familiar with the other townspeople, she begins to realize that the surprising lifestyle of the town awakens amazement, perplexity, and even disdain in her. For in this tiny corner of the world, a flourishing colony of exiles have settled into a simple, rural existence, living around great literature, intellectual discussions, family, and sweet indulgences.

Their peculiar and unconventional ways slowly test Miss Prim’s most intimate ideas and fears as well as her most profound convictions. She quickly comes to realize that her advanced degrees did little to prepare her for the lessons she’s being taught the least of which is a lesson in love.

Set against a backdrop of steaming cups of tea, freshly baked cakes, warm fires, and lovely company, The Awakening of Miss Prim is a delightful, thought-provoking, and sensitive novel that gives rise to theories about love and companionship, education, and the beauty of every passing moment. 

Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera is a journalist and novelist based in Madrid, Spain. She is Comment Editor of the Spanish economics and business daily newspaper Cinco DiasThe Awakening of Miss Prim is her first novel. There isn’t much about Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera out there, but you can read the interview Foyles made with her some time ago here. Below is the blurb from The Awakening of Miss Prim and the interview.

The Awakening of Miss Prim - Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

The Awakening of Miss Prim: Prudencia Prim is a young woman of intelligence and achievement, with a deep knowledge of literature and several letters after her name. But when she accepts the post of private librarian in the village of San Ireneo de Arnois, she is unprepared for what she encounters there.

Her employer, a book-loving intellectual, is dashing yet contrarian, always ready with a critique of her cherished Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. The neighbours, too, are capable of charm and eccentricity in equal measure, determined as they are to preserve their singular little community from the modern world outside. Soon, Prudencia is forced to question what she thought were the certainties she had built her life upon.

We talked to Natalia about the role Pride and Prejudice and other literature plays in The Awakening of Miss Prim, why there is a grain of truth in one of her character’s assertions that women writers spend too much time looking at themselves, and the parallels between eating and reading.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: 

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