A short novel by Gabriel García Márquez, published in 1994. Its Spanish name is Del amor y otros demonios. A love story as Catholic as it is darkly erotic in its overtones.
The novel's (likely fictional) origin is revealed in its preface, where Márquez relates attending the emptying of a Clarissan convent's burial crypt as a cub reporter and seeing the disintered body of a girl with many meters of miraculously preserved copper hair.
I ... did not think it so trivial a matter, for when I was a boy my grandmother had told me the legend of a little twelve-year-old marquise with hair that trailed behind her like a bridal train, who had died of rabies caused by a dog bite and was venerated in the towns along the Caribbean coast for the many miracles she had performed. The idea that the tomb might be hers was my news item for the day, and the origin of this book.
So basically your classic Márquez premise, full of colour and mystery. He places his young heroine in colonial South America, unregarded by her moneyed parents and in everything but birth a child of the estate's slaves, from whom she learns African languages and mystic traditions. After she is bitten by a rabid stray, her father's fondness for her is reawakened and he begins a desperate search for a way to stave off his daughter's infection, setting in motion a series of events that ultimately culminates in her meeting - and entrancing - a librarian of the cloth.
Typical magic realist elements apply, not limited to:
The effect is equal parts beautiful and haunting. I've never finished a book with such painful slowness, counting between my fingers how many pages I'd yet to turn and wringing as many minutes as I could from each of them. Every sentence is a gem. This book will break your heart and leave it bleeding into your chest. This book will make you sob.1
My copy was translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman, who is ridiculously talented. I've read a couple of her Márquez translations and they're always divine - her text breathes, flowing so naturally that it's barely an afterthought that what you're reading wasn't in English to begin with. Passionately recommended.
1It's possible that a Márquez review is the only place you can get away with romantic hyperbole like that.