Showing posts with label Spain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spain. Show all posts

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Read To Me: The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

My husband has finished reading another book to me, and this time, he'd like to offer the review.
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Readers expect a lot from a writer like Carlos Ruiz Zafón and The Angel’s Game will disappoint those who were first introduced to this wonderful story tellers magic in The Shadow of the Wind.

The Angel’s Game begins drawing readers into a Barcelona of the early part of the last century and somewhere around the middle, maybe just past halfway point, the threads of the tapestry taking shape become unraveled. Then, as if an attempted restoration takes place, only portions of the remaining work make sense--and not collectively. The characters remain the same but the story each is living in becomes disassociated with the original narrative and some characters drop away completely with unsatisfactory conclusion to their parts. Mostly there is an overuse of morte et motre extremis to prevent re-occurrence of characters.

I read the book to my wife over successive nights, and it wasn’t long before we were both hoping for the end. The tedious story should have ended but instead there is a flurry of minor characters suddenly becoming important.

I wonder if there is something lost in the translation by Lucia Graves. Certainly there would be much gained if a second edit were done to correct the grammatical phrasing that would put the subject, verb and other sentence parts in an order that would not fetter readability. Maybe if all the strands of incomplete characters, incoherent story lines and incompetent grammar are restored to their possible original luster, it will work.

I really wanted to like The Angel’s Game because I had enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind. My disappointment is extreme, yet I would be willing to give Carlos Ruiz Zafón another chance with whatever he produces next.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Guernica by Dave Boling

Reading Guernica took me three weeks--not because I've been extremely busy, but because I had to motivate myself to pick it up and keep going every time I put it down.

I know almost nothing about the history of Spain (except for a little from this book and a little from reading The Last Queen), and Boling didn't really help me to understand the politics at work, so I had no idea whose motives were what. Boling may have had pure motives for that; he says in his notes that he "tried not to tax the reader with elaborations on the complex and volatile politics at work at the time," but I would have been grateful for some help in understanding the bigger picture.

Though he creates some interesting characters (many based on historical figures), those characters are too perfect--the graceful, beautiful women who make perfect wives; the strong, considerate men who make perfect husbands; the charming children who become one of the aforementioned. Even characters who started off with alleged weaknesses (Miguel couldn't talk to women) turned out to not really have those problems they were assigned. Not only that, but there were too many characters to keep track of; I couldn't keep them straight, which gets frustrating.

Also frustrating: the book was predictable. I'm not a person who tries to guess the plot ahead of time, but with this book what's going to happen is so obvious. And I'm not just talking about the destruction of the town, but of pretty much the whole plot.

I know some people who have read this really liked the inclusion of Picasso amongst the characters, but I only found him, at first anyway, annoying--another character to keep track of. In fact, I thought the whole first part of the book could have been left off, the pertinent details included elsewhere. I was, however, fascinated by the description of the painting of Guernica, which Picasso painted after the German attack on the town. I'd never seen it, so I had to look it up.

Overall, the book was mediocre, but the research was impeccable. History buffs will likely enjoy it far more than I did. If you are not a history buff and want to give it a go, I'd highly recommend that you at least read up a little on the Spanish Civil War--on Wikipedia or some other (more reliable) reference site--beforehand.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner

I didn't know this: Spain had a queen, daughter of Isabel and Ferdinand, called Juana la Loca (sister of Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII) who never officially took the throne--she fell victim to the power-hungry men around her and was eventually locked away while her father ruled in her stead.

In The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner, she is finally given a voice in the form of historical fiction. Following in the footsteps of writing narratives of other little-known people who played important roles on the royal scene (Philippa Gregory comes to mind), Gortner creates a convincing story for this mysterious Spanish princess Juana.

Like Philippa Gregory's works, The Last Queen transported me to the setting--16th century Spain & Austria. I dreamed as though I were one of Juana's ladies. I didn't wake up feeling I should be dressed in silks or brocades or whatever the ladies wore, but instead I felt the distress and uncertainty of serving this woman who was used as a pawn all her life, often treated as a prisoner, and refused the right to her own inheritance.

Was Juana really mad? (There are indications of psychological issues in her family.) Or was she locked away as a woman getting in the way of men? Either way, this story has sparked my interest--I'll be trying to locate a biography, maybe the 1939 book on Gortner's list of references. Recommended to people who like historical fiction and/or are fascinated by stories of royalty. (The princess locked in the tower isn't a fairy tale.)

Thank you to C.W. Gortner for arranging to have me sent a review copy.