Or, the callecita of crossed destinies—a moody novel of contemporary mores and amours across the water in Spain.
In recent years Spanish novelist Arturo Pérez-Reverte has written several intellectual mysteries set in Spanish cities, all populated by men and women who smoke too much, drink too much, never sleep, and ponder the meaning of it all. Trueba, a screenwriter and director, imports a slightly cleaner-living crew of characters from the provinces of South America and mixes them up with native Spaniards who live slightly more healthful lives, but some of whom wind up dead all the same. One, very nearly, is young Sylvia, who, at the tender age of 16, gets mowed down by a car driven by soccer star Ariel, who could easily have gotten away with hit-and-run: “The accident would have been completely different if he weren’t a celebrity. He had been drinking, he was driving fast, it would be easy for the press to vent their anger on him, for it to get him into real trouble.” But Ariel, a gallant from Argentina, isn’t like that, and he faces up to Sylvia in a fumbling effort to secure forgiveness. Things get complicated—and steamy, with the understanding that the age of consent in Spain is likely lower than that in, say, Schenectady. Ariel goes back to the soccer pitch, while Sylvia’s world, once a place of comparative innocence, gets even more complicated, given that her father has just killed a man—“a man who had been, for several years, his best friend.” Shades of Meursault! Trueba’s story turns pensive and existential, but it’s also documentary, a chronicle of the lives of young people who, like kids everywhere, experiment sexually, smoke a little pot, lie to parents as their parents lied to their parents before them, and lust after pop-culture heroes. At turns the novel resembles Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander trilogy, albeit absent the constant mayhem, with its young heroine adrift in a world that offers few reasons to be trustful, and plenty to be otherwise.
An elegantly written, well-thought-through coming-of-age novel, with the requisite furtive embraces, broken hearts and missed signals.