A quartet of politicized Spanish students hits the road during the heady summer of 1977.
This emotional but uneven debut novel has an interesting narrative voice and very primal narrator, but its overuse of literary alchemy and melodrama threatens to derail its already meandering story. Our entry into the world of post-Franco Spain is Mosca, a smart but deeply cynical and somewhat self-loathing university student who's lost her brother, Alexis, who has presumably been murdered by the government for collaborating with militants. During a protest, Mosca and her friends turn violent, beating a police officer half to death. “We could have kept going, but we didn’t,” Mosca tells us. “A kind of pulse stopped us, a lack of inertia when our boots hit flesh that didn’t resist.” Fearing for their safety, Mosca, her frenemy La Canaria, her ex Grito, and Alexis’ friend Marco make a run for it. The novel is meant to capture the brazenness of youth and the dangers of an unsettled political scene, and to some degree, it does. But the characters come off as slovenly, poser punk-rockers prone to saying things like, “Only fascists don’t put out.” The novel also takes forever to get anywhere. Mosca and her friends travel first to Madrid, where they encounter a militant performance art group, and finally to Paris, where Alexis said he would go if he got away. There’s some drama along the way—they lose a friend, La Canaria turns up pregnant, and Marco is harboring a dark secret—but there’s little in the way of resolution, particularly in the novel’s hallucinatory third act. There’s some interest to be had from seeing a younger writer interpret a point in history, as with Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire (2015), but there are plenty of pitfalls to be surmounted as well.
A muddled novel about political unrest with a narrator who slouches toward adulthood with her feet dragging behind.