Family histories, cinematic obsessions, fractured relationships, and the films of Luis Buñuel converge in this pensive novel set in London and Spain.
The plot of Medina’s novel, which abounds with references to art, cinema, and literature, takes a little while to get going. When it does, however, the story it tells is a powerful and mysterious one. The novel is structured as the reminiscences of Nina, a Spanish woman living in London, looking back at a period of her life lasting several years. (“I was in time to witness the last vestiges of the punk civilization,” she writes early on.) Concerns over Nina’s father’s health lead her to find a mysteriously vast archive of shoes kept by her late mother, who had worked as an actress for a time. And what emerges slowly from this is a web of obsessions and fetishes, from the wealthy collector gathering props from the films of surrealist film giant Buñuel to the shoe and foot fetishes that turn up in some of Buñuel’s films to the unknowable desires of Nina’s parents. Throughout the novel, primal desires and heady discussions of artistic theory exist in a state of relative balance. One character is described as “an emissary of sensuality whose rubbery mouth was an unaware conduit for unusual unconscious ticks.” And at one point, Nina describes a particularly charged scene in the city: “I drifted along libidinal streets, sinister streets, listless streets....” These moments are balanced with lengthy musings on art, memory, and philosophy—which, given the occupations of many of the characters, seems entirely fitting.
This novel’s headiness might seem daunting, but readers who take a patient approach will find a deeply rewarding and often haunting narrative emerge.