Those library books

I finished A Corner of the World.

In contemporary Havana, “Do I stay or do I go?” is always the question, and love doesn’t necessarily conquer all.

A cautious, reserved professor of Spanish Literature, Marian has no idea that her quiet life is about to be turned upside down.  When she’s asked to review a new book by a young, ambitious author, she meets Daniel, and their love affair leads her to question both the choices she’s made so far in her life and the opportunities she might yet still have.  Theirs is the story of an intense and impossible love, set in today’s Havana, a city where there can be no plans, where chance is the the order of the day and a fierce sense of loyalty and pride coexists with the desire to live beyond the island’s isolation.

The blurb is somewhat misleading. Marian doesn’t question her choices and clings tightly to what she knows and where she feels comfortable.  There are people who come and go from Cuba and Marian’s life, but she’s frozen geographically and professionally, and she does little to move beyond that even with the urging of those around her.  There’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but it doesn’t really make for an interesting narrative.

Actually, one part of Marian’s past made me extremely uncomfortable and also painted her (to me) in a less than pleasant light:  her mother was terminally ill, but Marian withheld the diagnosis from her for her own good.  Which read as patronizing, controlling, and selfish to me, rather than the selfless, kind act that Marian (and the author?) framed it as.

Essentially, this reads to me as (Cuban) women’s fiction.  Which is fine, but to be honest, I’m not really in the WF reading mode at this point.

There was a noticeable amount of missed punctuation, including lack of closing/opening quotation marks (which is pure sloppiness IMO) and also a lack of direct address commas.  The prose was fine; I’m a terrible judge and never really understand what people say when they talk about lyrical prose, but this was fine in the sense that it was consistent and undistracting from the story.  Although I wonder a little about the translation quality: one character is referred to as both ex-boyfriend and ex-husband.

Leaving Atocha Station is going back to the library as DNF.  The author’s voice/style is engaging and I enjoyed the opening pages with the mentions of streets and neighborhoods in Madrid that I’ve visited, but I was bored by the narrator’s pretensions and pomposity.

Next I’ll try Travels in Siberia.  All six books are due back at the library next Saturday, but I’m pretty sure I won’t have finished the last three by then (unless they are all DNFs, which I doubt).  I hope no one has them on their wishlist, so I can renew the unfinished ones.

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