I’ve started to read this book 3 times before and never made it through the first 20 pages. This time i got over 1/3 of the way through it, and that was more than enough to call it a day. So read this review with that in mind.
This book is the literary equivalent of a crap TV soap opera. The characters are mostly inbred and somewhat retarded. There are too many characters, most of which either have the same name or very similar names. And just when you thought there was more than enough of one name, a whole bunch of illegitimate children would turn up and Gabriel would give them all the same name of the father. It’s like grandson named after son named after father named after great uncle named after grandfather. And this goes on and on until you aren’t quite sure who you’re reading about. Adding to the too many characters with the same name, there are also too many characters with similar names. Then you get time shifts, where suddenly you’re reading something that happened to a name in the past (i say name here because half the time you can never be sure which actual character that name belongs to), and then it’s back to present then off to the future and then it’s the present again, still haven’t worked out which character this name is yet, and you don’t get any structure to it, and it’s just utter chaos.
On top of all that chaos, they’re all related somehow because incest seems to be a perfectly normal thing amongst these backward, inbred people. And every few pages a new child is thrown into the mix named after someone already in the story who is then adopted and raised by someone other than its parents. And the incest and adoption is so confusing that you’re never quite sure who is related to who in what way, thus leading to more incest, adoption and confusion.
Oh, sure, i could have done due diligence and made a big effort to work out who exactly is who when a name appears, but i shouldn’t have to. I don’t read books to make tedious and pointless work for myself: i read books to enjoy the escape from tedium, i read for fun and recreation, to enjoy the experience of losing myself. But you can never lose yourself in this book because you’re always having to work at understanding who is who, how they’re related to each other, in what generation, etc., etc..
Then there’s the liberal use of Deus Ex Machina. Create a problem, that of everyone losing their memories, and then solve it when someone turns up with a magical potion and everything’s suddenly ok again. And what was the point of it all and where have we got with the actual story?
And that’s the question: what is the actual story here? All i get is a never ending cacophony of incest, illegitimate children, adoption of each other’s illegitimate children, giving them names of already existing characters into the maelstrom of same and similar named characters that already exist, and stupid behaviour with ever more and more characters from other places being thrown in, even when completely unnecessary.
How this book is classed as a paragon of Spanish literature is beyond me. I suppose it’s the same crowd that think Shakespeare and Dickens are paragons of English literature. And guess what? You won’t ever find any Shakespeare or Dickens on this website.
It’s not that i can’t handle lots of characters: i’ve read the Riftwar saga by Raymond E. Feist and similar great sagas of fantasy and sci-fi, and i’ve never been confused. Why? Because they give them all distinctive names.
It’s not that i have a problem with non English names: i’ve read lots of fantasy, sci-fi and also translated books by lots of non English writers and its never been a problem. Why? Because they give them all distinctive names.
I can only think that this was done on purpose to make some literary point, but this literary point is completely lost on me. Why create utter chaos within your character structure, add too many characters even when completely unnecessary to the story, give the characters same or similar names to add more confusion, throw never ending incest and inbreeding into the mix and then get them to adopt each other’s children and then don’t tell the children who their parents are so you can look forward to more incest? The point certainly isn’t made in the first 1/3rd of the book and if a writer can’t be bothered to hook me into a story in that time then the book goes in the delete bin.
The other issue with all this character chaos is that you never can bond with any of the characters.
I like a book that gives me some central characters who i can bond with, root for and believe in. Characters that i can identify, who stand out and make sense of the story for me. I like a book that simply loses me in the story. When i read a book the only part of me that has to do anything is my thumb, turning the pages on my Kindle: i don’t want to be having to stop and think about what’s happening, the story should flow and make sense of itself without my having to make a load of effort to make it make sense. And i don’t like soap operas and those kind of pathetic characters, repeating the same stupid mistakes over and over again and never learning anything. If i want a soap opera i could watch television. I don’t watch television! I read books!
My final pronouncement on this book is that it is a work for voyeurs with a niche fetish of viewing incest who enjoy crappy TV soap operas who are happy with Deus Ex Machina being deployed to solve every problem that served no literary purpose other than to deploy the Deus Ex Machina in the first place.