A moody literary love story set in Barcelona morphs into a mystery centered on reincarnation and the Cathars, with postmodern layers.
Welsh poet Gwyn’s debut novel works best in its evocative, enigmatic opening chapters, in which Welsh-Spanish loner Lucas strolls the city streets, drifts among bars and galleries and mingles with his bohemian friends and some more peculiar folk, like the tarot-reading fire-eater, the roof people and a writer in a green suit. An unsigned postcard slipped under his door lures him to the Miró Foundation, where he encounters a beautiful television researcher, Nuria, with whom he begins a passionate relationship. But after a couple of weeks of romantic bliss, the story abruptly changes gears; the couple are drugged, bound, abducted and transported in coffins to a mountain lair where an obsessive named Pontneuf tries to convince them they are missing, reincarnated members of a group of 17 Cathars who disappeared in 1247. Nuria seems more persuaded by this idea than Lucas, whose initial interest fades into animosity. Pontneuf imprisons him, then tries him for crimes committed in the 13th century and plans to burn him at the stake, but Nuria arranges an escape. Back in Barcelona, Lucas succumbs to drink, drugs and pneumonia, while pining for Nuria and narrating his story, in the third person, to his skeptical friends. The fire-eater and the roof people reappear, as does the man in the green suit, actually a baron who reveals that Pontneuf is Nuria’s father. Although another postcard reunites the couple and Lucas begins a novel based on his experience, such formal tidiness does not dispel the creeping sense of an idea unraveling.
A slowly deflating bubble of sophisticated storytelling.