This remarkably intricate 1994 novel by the veteran Spanish author (of, most recently, Variable Cloud, 1996) won her country's National Prize for Literature. It reveals, through a series of skillfully juxtaposed overlapping scenes (set both in the present and in a painstakingly remembered past), the ongoing ordeal of Leonardo Villalba, recently released from prison (for his complicity in an unspecified 'scandal—) and now compelled to explore both the mystery of his wealthy parents" deaths in an automobile accident and the enigma of his own detached, affectless personality. The key to these secrets is Hans Christian Andersen's tale "The Snow Queen," which bears crucial symbolic relevance to Leonardo's emotional opacity, the imperious grandmother who essentially raised him, and the strange new owner of Quinta Blanca, the clifftop house where the seeds of Leonardo's compromised manhood were sown. A Proustian journey into the interior, a dazzling psychodrama—and, arguably, one of the best novels out of Spain in recent decades.
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