Disclaimer: I did not finish this book.
One of my goals for this year is reading more Spanish and Latin American women writers. I asked a few friends to suggest some names at the end of last year and Almudena Grandes was one of the writers that almost everyone recommended. As to why I decided to go with her longest novel (700+ pages!), I don’t really know but I wish I hadn’t. My issue is not with her writing, Grandes is clearly talented and can do wonders with the Spanish language. I was into the story for the first 50 pages but then things started going off-track.
First, there were some vaguely racist comments about the titular character’s “indigenous” features. I’m sure I wouldn’t even have noticed this not too long ago but it’s a subject that’s been on my mind more and more and it was the first thing that made me less than enthusiastic about this book.
I kept on reading and things seemed to get very interesting for a while. A large family, colorful characters, hints of a possible family curse, an aunt who becomes a nun and then runs away, a grandfather who has a second family, a fabulous heirloom that must be kept secret, a forbidden romance! I thought, this is great, it’s like a House of the Spirits but set in Spain.
But then I noticed that the story was starting to drag and I wasn’t looking forward to picking the book up in the evening. I realized that the vaguely racist comments from the beginning of the book had upset me more than I knew. I didn’t want to leave it unfinished because I had recently done the same with The Bastard of Istanbul but I realized that the mere thought of opening the book was making me miserable and there are too many good books waiting for me out there to force myself to go through 700+ pages of misery.