PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)This is a romantic, wistful novel, with self-referential touches, lacking the harshness of the better-known Time of the Doves (1962) or Camellia Street (1966). What it shares with them is an impressionistic first-person voice that tries to build reality from scraps of always incomplete experience. Its plain elegance is nicely caught by the translators Maruxa Relaño and Martha Tennent ... Through half-glimpsed events, judicious eavesdropping, kitchen gossip and stray confidences made to the narrator, a tragedy takes shape and breaks as inevitably as a wave formed far back in the ocean – water being a symbol of death, as flowers embody care for life ... the novel transcends its central melodrama ... One charm is the peculiarity of the people filtered through the narrator’s mild observations ... While atmospherically it feels like the Symbolist 1890s, the jacket blurb sets the novel in the 1920s. Maybe. There are rather too many cars and phones, and a building boom in Barcelona, and the Mirós are expensive and painted in Mallorca (where the artist moved in 1956). Indeterminacy at least conveys the universality of transitional times.
Alvaro Enrigue, Trans. by Natasha Wimmer
RaveThe Washington PostWhat makes the novel so enthralling is the intimate humanity of its characters. Enrigue demystifies them using a rich, baroque naturalism, cut by flippancy and goofy jokes ... Throughout this mercurial novel, playing fast and loose with facts lets richer truths about the world emerge.