It is the most recent book of fiction written by Maria Helena do Carmo that addresses the life of the most beautiful nun of the Convent of Santa Clara and of the whole island of Madeira, Maria Clementina de Vasconcelos, who suffered the enclosure due to the subjection of paternal authority, she saw her freedom been limited due to her condition as a women of the first half of the nineteenth century and the political revolutions of the time.
Why did you decide to write about the life of Maria Clementina?
Maria Helena do Carmo: It was a suggestion of Duarte Mendonça to write about Maria Clementina de Vasconcelos, when I came to present the book "Broken Bamboo" in 2015. Since I already had a book about the Madeiran daily life that approached her, I went to investigate other books and then I wrote her history, because she was to marry, however, she got sick and ended up being all the life locked in a convent.
You focused it a novel, so there is a great deal of fiction, which were her feelings, although she has been 18 years cloistered, you only focus on a specific year.
MHC: She was more than a year and a half out of the cloister, because she was ill, even after 1834, when liberalism enabled the friars to leave the monasteries, not the nuns. However, they had the opportunity to come out, or if the family would support them. In the case of Maria Clementina, she left to recover, and it was at that time that she could analyze the bustle and activity of the city that she heard in the convent and that she did not know. Also, at this time, she was too old to marry, left at the age of 31 and returned to the convent with 33, so it was not a suitable time for a marriage bond, so she decided to return to her cloister, calmer and without that eagerness to see the world outside.
Why the choice of this period of her life?
MHC: Because in this period, between the ages of 31 and 33, she returns more consciously than her life will have to be there, in the convent of Santa Clara.
Did you do immense research on the life of the most beautiful nun in Madeira, in this course was there something that surprised you?
MHC: Some books, especially foreign ones, like John Drive's, said that she was the youngest daughter of the Vasconcelos couple, whereas the book by João do Nascimento indicates that she was an older daughter. This mismatch between being the youngest and the oldest forced me to rephrase the whole story of the novel, because being the youngest would have to have a different origin than if it were the oldest, even more she was born five and a half months before the parents' wedding.
And did you get proof that this was indeed what happened?
MHC: No, although there are records of marriage and birth, I have no evidence, this is already fiction, there is no evidence that it originated.
Maria Helena do Carmo writes many books on women in historical terms, now there are more publications on women at key points in history.
MHC: I started with a lady of the seventeenth century Dona Catarina de Noronha, because it was a paper I did for the university, it was 30 pages, so I decided to make a romance about her life with more than 300 pages.
What attracts you in these women?
MHC: A lot, Yvette you are a young woman, you have all the freedom of the world, also no restrictions, so you do not understand the same way I do at a time when women had no freedom at all. In this context, I recognize a time when many women lived upset lives, or because marriages were fostered by the family, or were often forced to marry, especially if there was a slip, this forced me to face women's lack of freedom as an interesting subject that I could investigate. I think this is very important, because never before has a woman had as much freedom as today and unfortunately some do not know how to take advantage of it, we could be whatever we want in life and others abuse that freedom going from 8 to 80, recreating the former to the topicality.
And Maria Clementina was one of those women?
MHC: She was displeased, she was put in the convent by the will of her parents. What she wanted was to come out here, get married, be a mother and it was not like that when she had a chance, she fell ill, and it was not possible to fulfill the dream. The politic environment also ended up undoing everything and it was again destined for closure.
How long did it take from research to writing the book?
MHC: It did not take much time to write, it took a lot of time to research, sometimes I take as much of one to two years reading, for example, "The opium merchants - Macao in the time of Qianlong" took five years to research. Then, before writing I already have an outline and from there I'll fill the plot, in 3 to 4 months I can have a written and revised work. The "Destined for enclosure" took a few months to write, it was suggested the theme in 2015 at that time I still had other works in hand and only began to research in 2017 in the regional archive and the novel was complete in 3 to 4 months.