Three generations of a family flourish and decline in Barcelona.
Separated into three parts, and narrated from multiple perspectives, ranging from that of a vitiated aristocrat to a discontented servant, the story begins in the late-19th century and follows the fortunes of Teresa Goday, her children and her grandchildren through the revolution and the rise of Franco. Teresa, a charming gold-digger, secures for herself two wealthy husbands and a beautiful villa. An essentially goodhearted worker, Teresa is larger than life, managing to please her husbands, seduce their friends and ensure the loyalty of her servants, all the while stockpiling a fortune for her daughter and her illegitimate son. Yet this carefree, exuberantly romantic woman produces a severe, uncompromising daughter, who in turn produces a weak-willed son. Once Teresa’s grandson is of an age to head the family, he has succumbed to depression and lives in poverty. The villa Teresa secured for her family falls into disrepair and passes from her family’s control. Most captivating is how the author reveals the inner life of her characters precisely and unsentimentally, often merely with a well-turned sentence. The prose is rich, almost lush, but it is also impersonal, without artificial or romanticized descriptions of an ideal past or a lost future. Rodoreda is also perfectly attuned to the differences in each narrative voice: Teresa’s sections are sensuous and ambitious, imaginative and fresh, for example, while the servants’ narratives are at once sullen, admiring, respectful and angry. Equally arresting is the acute depiction of how people confront the physical and mental ruin of passing time; this is the thread that unites each of the sections more surely than the family resemblances, which becomes harder and harder to discern in each passing generation.
Beautifully muted and intricate rendering of the aristocracy of Barcelona.