Histories and personalities collide in this literary tour-de-force about the Philippines’ present and America’s past

Gina Apostol shines the light on a usually forgotten piece of our history: the Balangiga massacre in 1901. Just as there two rival scripts in the novel (one from an American filmmaker and one from her translator), our reviewers Jed and Palo offer two different points of view, each a side of the same coin. Read their thoughts below.

Telling the Story

Jed says: Insurrecto does not waste time in declaring that reading it will be a different experience: the book begins at chapter 20 and proceeds to play up and down the chapter scale — energetically and unpredictably, much like a jazz pianist! — from there.

Palo saysStructured not unlike a screenplay, this novel basks in seemingly disconnected scenes that blur the lines separating time, truth, and imagination. Each chapter is a heady, lushly written scene with a woman at its heart.

Stranger Than Fiction

Jed says: In the opening chapter, Magsalin has returned to Manila from New York with the intention of writing her mystery novel. In the process, she seems to create the character of Chiara Brasi, the movie director, making her (to some degree!) a fictional construct within a fictional construct. Their story intertwines with the event of the actual massacre itself in 1901, where two women also take center stage.

Palo saysThe novel constantly challenges the reader to rethink and question personal and national narratives through shifts between time, twists, and metaphor. Insurrecto lays bare the act of creation (with characters that are creators not only of fiction, but also of circumstance) and calls attention to itself as a product of the process.

The Verdict

Jed says: Read Insurrecto because it talks in good detail about a remarkable tidbit of Philippine history, but be ready for a few bumps along the way.

Palo saysInsurrecto might not seem like your typical novel, but should you decide to pick it up, be ready to question not only the characters, their perspectives, the narratives winding through it, but also your understanding of writing, history, and memory.


Insurrecto by Gina Apostol is available at Fully Booked branches and Fully Booked Online.

Jed has worked as an animator, web designer, and college instructor, but he continues to dream of writing for a living.
Read full review • Read all reviews

Palo is a writer by trade and a book hoarder at heart. She hopes to one day conquer the behemoth that is her to-be-read pile.
Read full review • Read all reviews

[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]

Keep reading:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *