Elizabeth Ruth’s Matadora brings to life the sensual and brutal world of Spanish bullfighting, with a gendered twist. The orphaned maidservant Luna capitalizes on guts, ambition, and a heritage that’s only slowly revealed to the reader—and to Luna herself—to become El Corazón, Spain’s most successful female bullfighter. Set against the backdrop of the bloody Spanish Civil War, Ruth skillfully interweaves the history of the period with the intricate rules of bullfighting to paint a picture of a time and heroine struggling with the contradictions between old and new worlds. Luna’s evolving sexuality provides another layer to Ruth’s lush description of the era and the bullfighting ring. Like its heroine, Matadora is ambitious, passionate, and intense. And like her heroine, Ruth deftly manipulates her audience, leaving us wondering until the very end exactly who will come out on top in a world where even the most honorable death is a blood sport.




-Susan Goldberg