miércoles, 18 de mayo de 2016

TBR Challenge: ‘DOCE AÑOS Y UN INSTANTE’, by Anna Casanovas

The topic of this month is Something Different (outside your comfort zone, unusual setting, non-romance etc.)

Published: 2013
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating: 3 stars

In May we have to look for ‘Something Different (outside your comfort zone, unusual setting, non-romance etc.)’

Strange as it might seem, ‘outside my comfort zone’ in romance novels is a book written originally in Spanish by a Spanish writer.

Don’t get me wrong, I read a lot of books in Spanish -Literary books, poetry, non-fiction. I consider myself lucky that I can read Cervantes in his original language, as he is for me the best writer ever.

But my enthusiasm towards my language does not usually extend to the romance genre. I want to like them but they usually are not my kind of romance novels for different reasons, one of them is that many times they sound very old-skoolish. Hence, they make me feel –quite literally- uncomfortable.

So when I had to decide what to read in this May Challenge I knew I had to choose one Spanish book from my TBR pile, as they are my most ‘outside my comfort zone’ romances I can think of.

I choose this contemporary novel set in Cádiz (Southern Spain). It has two of my favourite topics -friends to lovers at the beginning and second chance at love as the main course. This couple of young friends confess their mutual love the day she turns eighteen. They are young and happy and have plans for the future. But suddenly, Sebastián, the boy, disappears and gives her no further notice. Cecilia, the girl, knows he is alive as he writes to his family, but that’s all. Twelve years and he does not even call her.

Then as out of the blue as he left, he comes back, to work in the port. Cádiz Bay port is a very relevant piece in the communication net with Tánger in Morocco and the Canary Islands, although the author does not develop this part of the setting. Sebastián works in an executive position in the port administration as a captain. And Cecilia is a marine biologist working in the same place under his orders. He’s back in order to try to redeem himself, to tell her everything that has happened and be with Cecilia, as he still loves her.

But of course, twelve years are a lot of time, and he should do a lot of grovelling to be forgiven. Which, in the end I think he does not. Cecilia has other ‘abandon issues’ as her father did also leave her (and her family) as soon as he discovered her wife had cancer. Yes, a SOB if you ever saw one. So it’s been very hard for her to trust anybody. Her sexual life requires the use of a corset to feel powerful and confident enough. It’s a love/hate relationship. Yes, I do still love you, yes I do also hate you because I was so painfully hurt.

So it will not be an easy way back to love. Anyway, they have to try it. The plot and the characters were quite interesting, and the style in which it’s written is not purple prose (thank God, as this is another of the Spanish pitfalls to avoid) and the setting is quite interesting, although I would have liked a secondary plot related to that place, a little bit of competence porn, you know.

At the beginning of each chapter there are lyrics from different songs. Anna Casanovas even created a Spotify list called “Doce años y un instante” with them. The majority of these songs are well-known Spanish pop music standards, but you can also find Leonard Cohen and Cindy Lauper, for instance.

There were minor things that I wasn’t quite happy about. For instance, the heroine has a TSTL moment and of course the hero has to go to the rescue. And the villain? Totally clichéd and the most disconcerting thing is that I understood why she did what she did to make Sebastián go away. Also, I feel that the book could have been written in fewer pages, as there were many paragraphs devoted to each minute detail of what the characters thought, and felt and expected and changing their minds first one way then another -in the end, a little bit boring. Finally, the rule ‘show don’t tell’ was not always followed.

But, considering it all, it was a very entertaining book that I read in a couple of days.

5 comentarios:

  1. That is interesting that a book in your native language would be your most uncomfortable.

    The whole book sounds like a Big Mis, which is something that irks me.

    1. It is interesting because, at least when talking genre romance, I'm with Bona: reading it in Spanish makes me uncomfortable, and the purple prose struggle, it's real, yo!

      For me, as a native Spanish speaker, I find that reading in English give me a degree of separation, so that even when the prose is at its purple best, I don't feel too terrible discomfited by it. I wonder if it's something similar for you, Bona?

  2. Well, it's not only the language but it's one of the reasons. I'm much more tolerant towards purple prose in English than in Spanish, perhaps because I have this personal emotional involvement with my own language. But it has also something to do with my particular obsession -adjectives. English writers do not usually use three or four adjectives accompanying just one noun in the same sentence. At least, they don't do it nowadays. It could be that it's easier for me to detect clichés and hackneyed adjectives in Spanish than in English, too. That's why I prefer writers like Anna Casanovas, who tends to use a less flowery prose.

  3. I found this review, and the subsequent comments by Bona and AL really interesting! How the differences in language, and our relationship with that language, can affect enjoyment of a book. But reading your comments, it really does make a lot of sense and I can see how this would happen. Really interesting post!

    1. Thank you for your comment.
      These days I'm thinking a lot about this.
      One would think that 'genre novels' (Sci-Fi, historical, noir fiction, romances) are all about plot & characters and who cares about language. But in the end, a little part of any novel is also how it's written.
      Bad spelling, grammatical errors, flowery prose or hackneyed expressions take me out of a story. And they are easier to detect in your own mother tongue.
      Apart from that, I suspect that one's language is an important part of our identity (personal or social, I'm not sure). So it is loaded with a lot of emotions that are not always justified.