A sinuous saga by Spanish novelist Grandes (The Ages of Lulu, 1994, etc.) pursues a tangle of apartment-house relationships in an Andalusian seaside town.
The arrival of the ill-fated Olmedo family from Madrid arouses the interest of residents in a new upper-middle-class housing development located on the outskirts of a popular tourist resort. Among them is 53-year-old Sara Gómez, the overprotected unmarried daughter of a captain in Franco’s army, also from Madrid. The new family, Sara learns from her cleaner, Maribel, consists of 40-ish orthopedic doctor Juan Olmedo, his retarded brother Alfonso and their ten-year-old niece Tamara, whose parents died in separate accidents within months of each other. Trying to make a new life for them in the pleasant town besieged by dangerous, changing east-west winds, Juan sends Tamara to school and secures daycare for Alfonso. Meanwhile, Maribel, divorced and lovelorn, with her own ten-year-old in tow, begins working for the doctor. Lonely Juan is still recovering from the death of his sister-in-law; he was passionately in love with Charo both before and after she married his brother Damián. Extensive flashbacks reveal each character’s secrets. Juan is fleeing potential prosecution for his brother's death: He was with Damián at the time of the accident, but claims he did not push his brother down the stairs in anger. Sara, who has just sold her godmother’s Madrid apartment for a monstrous sum, contemplates a reunion with the love of her life, father of her miscarried child. Fleshy, uneducated Maribel shakes off her hard-luck past (a no-good Lothario for a first husband) and, to the surprise of everyone, beds the needy doctor himself.
Grandes’s serenely composed, ponderous work celebrates the healing power of friendship. It’s long-running, but ultimately satisfying.