In this casual, colloquial translation, Barcelona between the wars is full of tawdry vitality, much like the novel itself.
First published in 1932 and newly translated into English, this is a satirical, multigenerational saga about the intricate relationship between Barcelona’s fading aristocracy and the city’s sordid demimonde.
“Aristocratic cynicism” and “decadence” are the subject matter. Digging deep into the crevices of the highborn Lloberola family while following its moral and financial disintegration, Catalan Sagarra displays none of his American contemporary Hemingway’s romanticism in his depiction of Spanish life. Frederic de Lloberola must be one of the least likable protagonists in fiction. As the novel opens, he's already regretting having had sex again with his former mistress Rosa, whom he dumped years ago to marry his rich wife. A hypocritical prig with little wit, imagination, or capacity to care about anyone, Frederic has already pawned his wife’s jewels and is less concerned with Rosa than with a note he can’t pay back to his wealthy acquaintance Antoni Mates. Fortunately for Frederic, Mates has a very dark sexual secret shared only by Frederic’s charming but amoral younger brother, Guillem, who blackmails the debt away with unexpected repercussions. Jump ahead five years, after the great crash, to the start of Republican rule. While Barcelona aristocracy is politically divided, society has become more heterogeneous. Frederic’s daughter Maria Lluisa works as a secretary. Unfortunately, her experiment in living as an independent woman doesn’t work out the way she—or the sympathetic reader—hopes. Expect murder, revenge, and fallings in and out of love as Sagarra tightens the initially loose connections among his characters. The novel comes most alive when the author digresses from his plot: in his characters' back stories, his ruminations on Spain’s socioeconomics, his cleverly vicious bons mots and descriptions (including men as black truffles among pink party dresses), and in some surprisingly graphic sex. Whether Sagarra is anti-Semitic and homophobic or commenting on those tendencies in his characters is troubling but unclear.In this casual, colloquial translation, Barcelona between the wars is full of tawdry vitality, much like the novel itself.
Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015
Page Count: 240
Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015
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by Mark Z. Danielewski ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 6, 2000
The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...
An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.
Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad. The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized). As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses). Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture. Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly. One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.
Pub Date: March 6, 2000
Page Count: 704
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000
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by Lisa Jewell ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 24, 2018
Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.
Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.
Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.
Pub Date: April 24, 2018
Page Count: 368
Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018
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