Linked by incisive narrators and chance encounters, Rupert Thomson’s alluring novel Barcelona Dreaming braids three stories into a lush exploration of love and unmet longings ... The book’s dense, multistrand accounts encompass characters’ self-regard, as well as their unwillingness, at times, to see their situations from afar. Jordi’s tale, in particular, stands out. He’s a young man who’s too absorbed with the lives of others, but who alters his own course in time. His story line includes a fascinating story-within-a-story about psychological intimidation ... an astute novel in which adults risk being vulnerable, all while dangerous secrets lead to spontaneous actions.
... can be situated in a growing tradition of fine British novels that have emerged in the wake of Brexit ... The stories are also connected by their style, which is airily suggestive, the long, ethereal sentences recalling the work of another author whose presence was powerfully felt in Barcelona in the early years of the millennium: Roberto Bolaño. Blanes, the town in which Bolaño was a campground caretaker, is mentioned several times, and at the level of subject and sentence Bolaño feels like a model for Thomson. These numinous stories, where reality is just the launchpad for flights of extravagant, erotically charged fancy, recall much of Bolaño’s early work, which was in correspondence with both South American and European magic realists. Thomson gives us a shadowy world in which, as one of the characters says, 'everything was connected, but not in a good way.' It feels unlikely that this novel will prove Thomson’s breakout success — it is perhaps too elusive, too darkling for that — but Barcelona Dreaming is a wonderful book, a phantasmal hymn to a city and a lost way of life.
At first sight Barcelona Dreaming, three linked novellas billed as Rupert Thomson’s love letter to the city, appears a somewhat conventional excursion for the author ... But although he plainly adores the place, it should come as no surprise that a Thomson love letter is not so much a starry-eyed document as something sharper, stranger, more unsettling and, ultimately, more revelatory ... Thomson has always been good at assembling discrete worlds that are invested with a touch of the unearthly. Here there is a hint of fable, with a slightly skewed reality reflecting the dreams, delusions and often fraught emotions on display ... Yet throughout there is also a hard clarity in the way light and shade, rough and smooth coexist ... Thomson’s Barcelona is similarly defiant in its insistence on complexity.