Ponderous account of a woman coming to terms with the death (and life) of her mother, as related by Spanish novelist Gaite (The Farewell Angel, 1999, etc.) in a deeply obsessive, introspective voice.
Águeda Soler, a 35-year-old graduate student in Madrid, works as a library archivist by day and devotes her spare time to the evolving draft of her dissertation, a study of an obscure 18th-century adventurer who roamed through Europe and South America in search of wealth and influence. Meantime, Águeda has a boyfriend named Tomas, an architect who is frequently away on business. As the story opens, Agueda is summoned to her grandfather’s nursing home, where the director asks her whether she would be willing to impersonate her recently deceased mother in order to spare her ailing grandfather the shock of learning of his daughter’s death. Somewhat taken aback, Águeda promises to consider the request and returns home. As she then goes about her daily chores, she is overwhelmed by a flood of memories and dreams of her family and home. Like most of us, she has ambivalent feelings about her parents: Her father (still alive) and her mother divorced while Águeda was a girl, and for years before her mother’s death she had little contact with either parent. Her mother was a well-known painter, and her death was widely noted in the press. As she packs up her mother’s artwork and belongings, Águeda comes to feel an identification with her that she had always resisted as a child, and she returns to the nursing home ready to take on the strange new role.
Beautiful, extremely moving in its outline and sentiments, but a much different matter on the page: overlong, rambling, monotonous.